RICE TOWNSHIP -- A former fire department secretary accused of stealing from the department in Luzerne County pleaded guilty to theft charges Monday.
When Gina Tombasco was charged in December with stealing more than $30,000 from a fire department in Rice Township, officials said it was crushing blow.
"It is a shame and a travesty for everyone involved. I don't wish anything bad on anyone, but i believe when you are in a volunteer service it should be honor," said Rice Township Supervisor Miller Stella.
The fire department Tombasco was accused of stealing from in Mountain Top was already struggling after a long history of problems.
In 2013 Rice Township officials decommissioned the department, and Wright Township started taking its calls. Tombasco was part of the group trying to bring the company back under the name Independence Fire and Rescue. Alicia Stier currently serves as its secretary.
"It gives us hope to rebuild, it really does," Stier said.
Stier said Tombasco co-signed mortgages totaling $40,000 on two fire department properties, but then money that might have helped with rebuilding started disappearing. Prosecutors accused Tombasco, a firefighter and department secretary, of the theft.
"I was devastated. She was my best friend, so I was absolutely devastated," said Stier.
Tombasco has now pleaded guilty to theft and paid $32,000 in restitution, according to her attorney. Steir said that money will repay about three-quarters of the mortgage debt, but the fire department is still broke, and the future is uncertain.
"We keep going. We keep putting one foot in front of the other and we hope for the best," Stier said.