David Garmoe's 26-year career in the fire service ended with handcuffs Friday as the onetime lieutenant was sentenced to five years in prison for embezzling $262,000 from the Glen Ellyn Volunteer Fire Company.
Garmoe, 56, pleaded guilty to a felony theft charge stemming from his tenure as the department's treasurer. DuPage County prosecutors said he took the money during a seven-year period and used some of it to pave his driveway in Glen Ellyn.
"Your career, overall, demonstrated to me that you were a good and decent man who made significant positive contributions to your community," Judge Daniel Guerin told Garmoe. "However, you chose to commit these thefts for your own lifestyle. You violated the public trust by doing that -- not one time, but many times over many years."
Authorities charged Garmoe last year after a purchasing order he submitted raised suspicions among other fire officials. Further reviews and an audit showed he had fraudulently siphoned away department funds dozens of times since April 2004.
Garmoe took the money by writing checks to himself and submitting fraudulent or inflated purchasing orders on behalf of Fireground Supply, a West Chicago-based fire equipment company he co-owned. In police interviews, he admitted altering records to hide the thefts, Assistant State's Attorney Ken Tatarelis said.
"He indicated he used some of the money for home improvements, including a new driveway," Tatarelis said.
Garmoe admitted guilt Friday in exchange for the five-year prison term, but at times appeared reluctant to take the plea bargain.
He initially asked the judge to delay proceedings, then said he wanted to plead guilty without the agreed-upon sentence. Guerin reminded him that without an agreement, Garmoe would face a wider range of penalties. After that, Garmoe asked to move ahead with the plea bargain, which also requires him to make full restitution.
Several Glen Ellyn fire and police officials were on hand for the hearing. Firefighter Joseph Pierotti declined to comment on the outcome but issued a brief statement thanking police, prosecutors and the village of Glen Ellyn for working to bring "this unfortunate chapter in our history to a close."
He said the department, which relies on village contributions, private donations and two special taxing districts for funding, has since enacted new financial safeguards.
"We appreciate the trust (residents) have put in our fire company for the past 105 years and we will continue to do all in our power to protect your trust, your donations and, if needed, your homes and lives," Pierotti said.
Garmoe was a 26-year veteran of the agency and treasurer for two decades. He was named lieutenant about six months before his arrest.
By law, he must serve at least 2½ years of his sentence. He could have faced up to 15 years if convicted at trial.
Defense attorney Matt Sperry has described Garmoe as a family man, an Eagle Scout and a community leader who volunteered with the music program at Glenbard West High School and at the annual Taste of Glen Ellyn. He had no prior criminal history.
Garmoe's business partner at Fireground Supply was unaware of the thefts, authorities said.