Glen Ellyn firefighter charged with theft

Updated 5/13/2011 9:08 PM
  • David Garmoe

    David Garmoe

David Garmoe's Glen Ellyn home has a new concrete driveway, and authorities say village residents may have helped pay for it.

Garmoe, a 26-year veteran of the Glen Ellyn Volunteer Fire Company, is accused of stealing more than $260,000 from the fire company's funds for his personal and professional use, prosecutors said Friday.

As the fire company's treasurer for the past 20 years, Garmoe is accused of writing unauthorized checks to himself and his business from the fire company's bank account.

There were about 87 fraudulent transactions made between 2004 and February, when officials from the fire company discovered a discrepancy in its bank account and brought their concerns to police, authorities said.

"The paper trail... is unbelievable," Assistant State's Attorney Helen Kapas said during Garmoe's bond court appearance Friday. "This defendant has violated the public trust not only with the fire department, but with the community."

Garmoe, 54, of the 600 block of Prairie Avenue, was charged with eight counts of theft, two counts of continuing a financial crimes enterprise, one count of financial institution fraud, one count of money laundering and two counts of forgery. He was arrested outside his home Friday without incident.

Kapas said Garmoe admitted to a police detective that he had used one of the fraudulent checks to pay for his driveway. She said he also wrote checks to Fireground Supply, a West Chicago-based fire equipment supply company he helped run.

Craig Eldridge, a member of the fire company and its spokesman, said one of the group's purchase orders was called into question in February. It wasn't for a particularly large amount of money, but "it didn't make sense for the items we were buying," he said.

Garmoe had become one of the company's lieutenants in December, but was placed on administrative leave two months later when the accusations surfaced, Eldridge said.

The volunteer force is funded by an annual contribution from the village, private donations from residents and two special service area taxing districts in unincorporated Glen Ellyn.

The fire company is audited annually, Eldridge said, although most financial information would have been provided by Garmoe, as the organization's treasurer.

After the charges were filed, village officials announced the implementation of new audit and oversight accounting processes. The system includes oversight from the fire company, village and an outside auditor, according to a village news release.

Eldridge said the company would be adopting the same bookkeeping system used by other governments.

"It definitely will be a system that will give more assurances to citizens who donate to us and the village who gives to us that their money is safe," Eldridge said. "We have a 104-year history, and this is pretty much the first blemish on it. We're obviously looking for ways to assure citizens that they can still count on us and trust us."

Glen Ellyn Village President Mark Pfefferman said in a written statement that the village would continue to support the company financially.

"For over 100 years, this group of men and women have voluntarily put their lives in jeopardy -- we will not let this isolated incident weaken our support for their important mission," he said.

Defense attorney Matt Sperry said during the bond hearing that Garmoe was "well-entrenched" in the community, and volunteers with the music program at Glenbard West High School and the annual Taste of Glen Ellyn.

Garmoe has been married for 33 years and is an Eagle Scout.

"He's a family man with several decades of service to the community," Sperry said. "He is looking forward to his day in court."

DuPage County Judge Cary Pierce kept the amount of Garmoe's bail at $500,000, of which Garmoe needs $50,000 to bond out.

Garmoe is due in court for arraignment June 6.

The incident left members of the 65-person fire company hurt and disappointed, Eldridge said.

"We were all very surprised at the whole thing," Eldridge said. "I don't think anyone had any reason to believe he was anything other than what we all were -- volunteering his time and proud to be a Glen Ellyn firefighter."