HONESDALE -- The former president of the Lake Ariel Fire Company pleaded guilty in court Thursday to taking money from his own department.
Aaron Rossignol was charged with theft earlier this year after authorities discovered he was using a fire company fuel card for his own use.
Rossignol allegedly stole more than $8,000 worth of fuel from the fire department over a period of several years.
Rossignol was in court facing those felony theft charges, but ended up pleading to only a misdemeanor offense.
"Aaron is there anything that you'd like to say? Did you take that money from your fire company?"
"No, I did not," Rossignol said as the former president of the Lake Ariel Fire Company headed into Wayne County court.
According to investigators, he racked up more than $8,000 worth of credit charges with the Lake Ariel Fire Company's fuel credit card, allegedly using the card for personal use as early as 2011.
"I was in shock, total shock. It's something you don't expect," said Chester Nowacki of Lake Ariel.
Now the Wayne County district attorney's office and Rossignol's attorney have worked out a plea agreement.
Rossignol pleaded guilty one misdemeanor theft charge and is agreeing to pay $7,000 in restitution, giving back money to the same department he volunteered with for years and throwing out the felony counts he was facing.
"He is a good, decent guy, a loving family member, he's a loving father. He dedicated and devoted his life as a volunteer to the fire company," said defense attorney Paul Batyko.
Rossignol's attorney says some of the money investigators say he stole was actually used for legitimate fire department expenses. That's why investigators are agreeing to only make him pay back $7,000 to the fire company instead of the more than $8,000 he initially was charged with taking.
Some community members who rely on the Lake Ariel Fire Company disagree.
"To do that and not pay back the full amount, I think it's wrong," said Arlene Metsky of Lake Ariel.
Many are hoping to put this matter to rest in Lake Ariel and move forward, but they say it's a hard lesson learned.
"I don't think we're losing trust. You always have that trust. But there's got to be closer scrutiny I would think," said Nowaki.
Rossignol is scheduled to be sentenced in January and could possibly face jail time.
We reached out to members of the Lake Ariel Fire Company for comment but have not heard back.