The state Attorney General has filed legal action against several former officers of defunct Aspers fire and ambulance companies, accusing those members of mismanaging the organizations, redirecting official funds for personal use and wasting charitable assets.
Attorney General Linda Kelly said in a Friday press release the civil action involves the Aspers Fire Company, Aspers Volunteer Ambulance Inc., and the Aspers Volunteer Firefighters' Relief Association, all operated from offices at 1555 Center Mills Road, Aspers.
In 2010, about a year after concerns were raised over the financial practices of the Aspers Fire Co., four municipalities dropped the 90-year-old department. Formerly a responder for Menallen, Butler, Tyrone and Huntington townships, the fire company that then included about 87 volunteers no longer serves as a responder for any of the four.
The long list of parties named in the legal action includes: Lewis J. Alexander, 21 Aspers North Road, Aspers, who at times served as president, fire chief, EMS captain or in other positions of responsibility; Alberta Alexander, 21 Aspers Road North, Aspers, who served as vice-president, treasurer or in other positions; George Acevedo, 107 Park St., Bendersville, who served as treasurer of the corporations; Sherrie Haines, 1493 Center Mills Road, Aspers, who served as president or in other positions; Donald Haines, 1493 Center Mills Road, Aspers, who served as president, fire chief or in other positions; Edward Kuntz, 53 Prospect St., Aspers, who served as secretary for the corporations; Joyce Kuntz, 53 Prospect St., Aspers, who served as membership secretary; Barry Shealer, 4247 Carlisle Road, Gardners, who served as board member of the corporations; and Clair Showers, 462 Clearview Road, Aspers, who served as a board member.
According to the Petition for Citation which was filed by the Attorney General's Office in Adams County Orphans' Court, the fire and ambulance companies and their assets allegedly became an "alter ego" of Lewis Alexander and members of his immediate family.
Under the direction of Alexander and his associates, charitable donations and official funds were allegedly redirected or mismanaged, including:
- Diversion of funds away from the purchase of a new fire truck;
- Wasting charitable assets by paying and then abandoning a $10,000 down payment on a pump truck;
- Applying for grant money to subsidize a personal boat;
- Payment of an individual's medical bills;
- The signing of at least 32 blank checks by various board members;
- Commingling of corporate assets;
- And conversion of nonprofit assets from the sale of an ambulance.
The release said officials from the fire and ambulance companies are accused of violating a "cease and desist" order issued by the Pennsylvania Secretary of State, issued in August 2010, by continuing to solicit charitable contributions and operate raffles, bingo and other small games of chance after the organization had stopped providing services.
Additionally, funds from the firefighters' relief association were allegedly used to pay legal bills, and officials failed to protect the assets of the relief association.
The Petition for Citation filed by the state Attorney General's Office seeks a full accounting of all funds received and spent during the preceding three years by the Aspers Fire Company, Aspers Volunteer Ambulance and the Aspers Community Fire Department Relief Association, also known as Aspers Volunteer Firefighters' Relief Association.
Additionally, the petition requests a full accounting of charitable contributions received as the result of unlawful solicitations, including all funds that were raised in violation of the cease and desist order, along with civil penalties of up to $1,000 for each violation.
Kelly said the Attorney General's Office has also moved to terminate the non-profit corporate franchises for the Aspers organizations, and is requesting the court liquidate any assets, which should be directed to appropriate firefighting and ambulance services in surrounding communities.