SCRANTON — A volunteer firefighter, businessman, and former council member in Moosic was sent to jail Tuesday morning. Bill Sweeney was sentenced to nearly a year behind bars for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the fire department he worked for.
When Bill Sweeney was arrested back in April he was a volunteer firefighter, a Moosic Borough councilman, and a businessman. Now, he’s lost all but one of those titles.
At sentencing, Sweeney said he hopes he can keep his business, Bitty Bill’s in Moosic, so he can pay back the money he admits he stole to feed a gambling addiction.
Sweeney pleaded guilty earlier this year and admitted to stealing almost $400,000 from the Greenwood Hose Company in Moosic while he was a member there.
Sweeney was sentenced to 11 to 23 months in jail.
It’s a case that folks in Moosic followed closely, and had many of them divided.
“When you’re in a position of trust as he was and you take that money and use it for your own personal use, you should pay for it quite frankly,” said Richard Neiper of Moosic.
Officials from Greenwood Hose Company have never spoken publicly about Sweeney’s arrest. But Sweeney’s attorney said when it came time for his sentencing, dozens of fellow firefighters sent messages of support.
“This is a tragic situation. He’s been doing community service work since he was a kid. Thousands and thousands of hours, countless numbers of people he’s helped out. So, to some extent I think he should be getting more credit for that,” said Bill Peters, Sweeney’s attorney.
In addition to the prison time, Sweeney was ordered to spend 1,000 hours doing community service for Greenwood Hose Company and pay back full restitution. His attorney said Sweeney’s already paid back $100,000 dollars.
But, some people think paying back the fire department isn’t the same thing as paying your debt to society.
“I think there should be a black and white sentence, if you steal so much money you get so many years. And if you can’t make your restitution you get more years,” said Leo Ventura of Scranton.
Sweeney started serving his 11-23 month sentence immediately.