The former treasurer of the Blooming Valley Volunteer Fire Department “stabbed (the department) in the back” when he stole funds from it while treasurer, according to the department’s president.

Thomas L. Urey, 32, of 14714 Dickson St., Guys Mills, was sentenced Wednesday in Crawford County Court of Common Pleas to three and one-half to seven years in state prison by President Judge Anthony Vardaro. Urey had pleaded guilty in August to two counts of theft by unlawful taking.

Authorities initially charged Urey with four counts of theft by unlawful taking for stealing $41,243.50 from the department between Jan. 8, 2008, and Jan. 13 of this year. He pleaded guilty in August to two counts in a plea bargain with the Crawford County District Attorney’s Office.

Vardaro also ordered Urey to make restitution to the department plus restitution of $24,682 to the insurance company which covered only part of the loss.

In handing down the sentence, Judge Vardaro said Urey had violated the trust placed in him not only by the fire department, but by the community as well.

“You knew exactly what you were doing,” Vardaro told Urey. “It’s clear it was an ongoing scheme. It’s had a profound effect on Blooming Valley Volunteer Fire Department, its morale and the community.”

Prior to sentencing, Keith Edwards, the fire department’s president, told the court Urey’s actions jolted the department to its core.

“He stabbed us in the back,” Edwards said, his voice angry with emotion. “We don’t trust anybody in the department (now).”

“It’s created stress,” Edwards said. “Payments were not being made.” Edwards said the thefts were discovered in January when the department got a call that its newest fire truck was in danger of being repossessed in January for non-payment.

Urey told Vardaro he had made a mistake and that he had to live honestly.

“I know what I did was wrong,” Urey said.

Asked by Vardaro why he needed $41,000 over a period of a year, Urey said he was trying to pay bills at his previous house and business debt for a contracting business he owns.

“I know I hurt a lot of people,” Urey said.

Vardaro also pointed out that Urey had previous convictions including unlawful use of a computer and several bad checks.

Vardaro said the theft took place over a one-year period.

“This was not a one-time thing,” Vardaro said.



Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by e-mail at kgushard@meadvilletribune.com.

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