Former rescue squad treasurer pleads guilty to theft

Mitigating factors result in probation for Heather McCabe
February 7, 2019

A former treasurer of Mid-Sussex Rescue Squad pleaded guilty Feb. 6 to one count of theft for stealing from the Long Neck squad over a five-year period.

Heather McCabe, 45, of Millsboro pleaded guilty to theft under $1,500 in Sussex County Superior Court, and she was immediately sentenced to one year of probation.

Carl Kanefsky, spokesman for the Attorney General's Office, said McCabe had repaid $109,630 to the squad before she was indicted in 2018 by a grand jury on nine counts of theft greater than $1,500.

“Her attorney Daniel Strumpf presented substantial mitigating factors about the defendant’s circumstances that were taken into consideration,” Kanefsky said.

Kanefsky said there are no further criminal actions on the case. “There is no further admissible evidence that supports a criminal charge against any other individuals,” he said.

McCabe was indicted on theft charges stemming from a financial statement in 2017 that showed more than $100,000 of misappropriated funds over a five-year period.

Following a 2017 Freedom of Information Act request filed with the Delaware State Fire Prevention Commission for Mid-Sussex's annual audit, the Cape Gazette first reported that a former member had stolen about $95,000 from the squad between 2011 and 2016. Another $10,000 in checks were written but never cashed. McCabe was not identified in the audit.

The audit stated the squad discovered a previous member had been making cash withdrawals from the company's bank account and using the money for personal purposes. It also stated the member repaid nearly $95,000; another $10,000 in outstanding checks were voided.

No charges were filed by the squad.

“Charges were brought after a thorough investigation and a determination that McCabe's actions met the standard for criminal prosecution,” Kanefsky said following the Sussex Superior Court indictment.

At the time of the Cape Gazette's first story, an investigation by state Auditor Thomas Wagner was underway but his report was not complete until March 28, 2018.

In March, the state audit estimated the former treasurer misappropriated about $120,000 of squad funds, and the report was sent to the Department of Justice where it was reviewed by the office of Civil Rights and Public Trust, which determines whether someone's actions meet the standard for criminal prosecution, Kanefsky said.

During the five years money was misappropriated, Ray Johnson was the squad president, and he remains president. Wagner noted that Ray Johnson and treasurer McCabe were married when squad money was misappropriated. Ray's brother, Joseph Johnson, is now treasurer.

Wagner's audit states the squad debit card was used for a $400 car payment in Ray Johnson’s name, and the treasurer wrote three checks totaling $5,000 to cash. One $5,000 check for cash was signed by both the treasurer and Ray Johnson, the audit states.

In a previous interview, Gerald Burbage, a financial advisor with Mid-Sussex, said the state audit uncovered about $8,000 more than what was noted missing in the 2017 audit submitted to the state Fire Prevention Commission, but the squad is not pursuing charges against McCabe. “As far as Mid-Sussex is concerned, we are whole,” he said.

Wagner concluded that the former treasurer repaid about $110,000 to the squad, but took more than $112,000 in cash withdrawals from the squad's bank accounts. Wagner said the treasurer also wrote a $5,000 check payable to the treasurer and made almost $2,000 in debit card transactions.

“Debit card transactions, totaling $1,833, applied to the personal utility accounts of the squad's president and former treasurer who were married at the time,” the audit states.

Two checks each for $1,300 and one for $1,250 were unsupported payments to a former career chief supervisor and EMS chief. Jerry Johnson, Raymond's brother, was the emergency medical services chief before he was charged in May 2017 with groping a part-time employee at the Long Neck station. Jerry Johnson later pleaded no contest to third-degree unlawful sexual contact, and he was given probation before judgement.