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Firefighter Accused Of Stealing Nearly 300K From Union

REUTERS/Dirk Diestel

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Ted Goodman Reporter

A former fire captain in California faces charges after allegedly embezzling nearly $300,000 from a firefighters union where he once served as treasurer, according to the Lodi News-Sentinel.

Oscar Picazo, a former fire captain in Lodi, Calif., is facing felony charges after allegedly embezzling $297,000 from the Lodi Professional Firefighters Union. County court records indicate Picazo was charged with grand theft, theft of more than $100,000 and damage of destroying property over $200,000.

Lodi is a city of about 60,000 in California’s central valley, and is best known for its wine grape production.

The firefighter union has been “coping with the damage” for months, according to a statement provided to ABC 10.

“The [Lodi Professional Firefighters] was very disappointed to discover that Mr. Picazo violated the trust placed in him by the union,” union officials stated. “Although Mr. Picazo did not take any public funds, the fact that Mr. Picazo would defraud his friends and colleagues makes this situation all the more disheartening.”

Picazo was nominated union treasurer in Dec. 2003, and held the position until September of this year, when he resigned after the city launched an investigation into accusations Picazo was embezzling funds. He also left his position as a fire captain, according to the News-Sentinel.

Lodi city manager Steve Schwabauer assured local residents that Picazo did not have access to public tax dollars.

“We expect a high level of integrity from all City of Lodi employees in their public and private lives. At no time in his City career, however, did this former employee have access to public funds,” Schwabauer asserted.

The issue is being handled by the San Joaquin District Attorney’s Office and Picazo is scheduled to be arraigned Dec. 22 in San Joaquin County Superior Court.

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