Firefighter Accused of Stealing $30K From Defunct Department
RICE TOWNSHIP – Detectives in Luzerne County arrested a former firefighter for allegedly stealing $30,000 from the Rice Township Fire Department after it was decertified and shuttered.
Authorities charged Gina Tombasco with felony theft and forgery at a district judge’s office near Hazleton on Monday afternoon.
Tombasco refused to answer questions as she was led into the arraignment, but the former firefighter talked with Newswatch 16 earlier this year, after Rice Township supervisors decided to stop supporting the department.
“We sat, we cried, we reminisced and just thought how could people be so ignorant and cruel,” Tombaco said back in June.
Luzerne County Detective Chaz Balogh said that workers at a bank in Mountain Top discovered the fraudulent use of fire department checks and debit cards, and that most of the money came from loans.
“The decertification is a totally different process. This came through from people being very suspicious of activity on the banking account and checking account,” said Balogh.
Rice Township Police Sgt. Harry Ehret said he hopes that the arrest will put an end to the rumors and speculation of issues at the defunct department.
“Maybe we can put this whole thing to rest that, there`s not going to be any more problems there and the fire department can move on and do whatever it is that they have to do,” said Ehret.
Authorities said the defunct department renamed itself to Independence Fire and Rescue, but that volunteers have not been dispatched to a single call since Rice Township Fire Department was decertified.
The acting chief of Independence Fire and Rescue, who is the brother of Tombasco, told Newswatch 16 that the doors to the fire department have been locked, members have been told to return gear and pagers, and that Luzerne County 911 officials should take the embattled department “off the grid”.