Firefighter guilty in theft from charity

March 04, 2010|By Andrea F. Siegel

An Anne Arundel County firefighter admitted Wednesday to emptying the bank accounts of a regional firefighter charity when he was its treasurer, a crime that has decimated the organization.

Lt. Joshua Lee Constuble, 38, of Crofton pleaded guilty to felony theft in Annapolis District Court. Judge Megan B. Johnson sentenced him to five weekends in jail and suspended the rest of a two-year sentence. During 18 months of probation, he must repay the Emerald Society about $2,100, the amount he still owes on the more than $7,400 he took. He was fined about $1,000.

Members of the Emerald Society, which helps rescue workers in need, said they were glad that Constuble had been branded a thief and is likely to lose his job of 14 years. They expressed outrage at the embezzlement and frustration that Constuble offered no apology or explanation.

"Obviously, the bigger issue is that he stole the money from his brother and sister firefighters," said Brett Howe, society president and an inspector in the Fire Marshal's Office.

Formed in 2001 by four firefighting friends in Anne Arundel, the Emerald Society grew to 200 members, including some in Baltimore City and Baltimore and Howard counties. The 12 remaining active members vow to rebuild the group.

Firefighters said they would not have elected Constuble treasurer had they known that he had been charged with theft in 1996. In a letter to prosecutors, the management company for a self-storage business in Anne Arundel County wrote that Constuble, a relief manager, took cash from tenants, did not deposit it and altered computer records to give tenants free rent, and "made a full admission" when questioned. The charge was not pressed on condition that he make restitution, according to court records.

Emerald Society officers learned of their loss in 2008, when they sought seed money for a fundraiser. Constuble, treasurer since 2003, replied that the coffers were empty. When they sought financial records, he said he destroyed them, Howe said. Nobody oversaw the treasurer because members trusted one another. The structure has since changed.

Bank records show that Constuble closed the society's two accounts in 2006 and 2008 and pocketed the money, Assistant State's Attorney Jessica Daigle said.

On the request of defense lawyer Christopher J. Drewniak, Johnson said she would consider probation before judgment.

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