continued “We have internal procedures when events like this happen, and they didn’t follow them,” said Wickham. “They are supposed to notify their superiors and they didn’t.”
Craft did not return calls seeking comment.
According to court documents, the investigation started after Craft noticed a payment to AT&T on the bank statements for the fire company. Craft then approached Burns about the charges, since the fire company did not have an account with AT&T.
Burns allegedly told Craft the payment was a mistake, and that she had “accidentally paid some personal bills” using the fire company’s bank account. Burns had been doing that from January 2012 to October 2013.
“Heather apologized for the mix-up and agreed to pay back the money,” Craft told Albany County Investigator Charles Higgins.
Craft told investigators he was later able to recover $1,885 from AT&T. However, he eventually found more discrepancies on the bank statements and approached the sheriff’s department for help on the case. Court documents showed Higgins told Craft not to discuss the case with anyone else, while investigators looked into the matter.
Burns was asked to step down from her position as treasurer several months ago when she was unable to provide financial statements to Company No. 3’s president.
Sheriff’s investigators conducted a three-month investigation, which led to the discovery of more than 40 unauthorized transactions from the fire department’s checking/savings account over the past two years. The unauthorized transactions consisted of money transfers, checks written to cash, checks written out to Heather Burns, cash withdrawals, direct web payments to credit cards, utility companies and insurance carriers.
Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple said at the time of the arrest the thefts seem to be isolated incidents, and they do not believe other family or company members were involved.
None of the money taken came from taxpayers, but was raised through local fundraisers. Wickham said the department would be working to try to retrieve the stolen funds.
Burns has since been terminated as an active volunteer member within the company.
Wickham said to make sure another incident doesn’t happen again, financial reporting procedures have changed and an extensive audit was done of all department funds. The separate fire companies also recently merged into one department, so “the District is confident this will prevent any future thefts of department funds.”
Burns was set to reappear in Bethlehem Town Court on Tuesday, March 4.