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Turkeytown firefighter faces charges

Paul Peirce
| Monday, May 14, 2012, 12:23 a.m.

A former treasurer of a South Huntingdon Township fire department was charged Monday with stealing more than $90,000 over the last four years, most of it proceeds from weekly bingo games at the volunteer company.

John Sarosi Jr., 57, of Oak Street, Yukon, former treasurer of the Turkeytown Volunteer Fire Department, was arraigned before Scottdale District Justice J. Bruce King on multiple counts of theft, receiving stolen property and forgery. Sarosi was committed to the Westmoreland County Prison on $50,000 bail pending a preliminary hearing April 11 before King.

Sarosi was treasurer of the fire department from 1998 until Sept. 30, 2001, when he was suspended after the thefts were discovered.

According to the arrest affidavit filed by county Detective William Brown, Sarosi admitted during an Oct. 2 interview with Brown and Detective Frank Galilei that he had spent the money to pay gambling debts as well as his everyday living expenses. Sarosi, who was unemployed, lives with his wife and mother.

Facing charges
John Sarosi Jr. is among a number of emergency service personnel in western Pennsylvania recently charged with stealing money from volunteer fire department accounts.

  • Former Latrobe Goodwill Hose Co. No. 1 social club treasurer Edward A. Newcomer Sr., 41, of 182 Lemmons Road, Latrobe, was charged in March with taking $37,304 in funds from the social club's coffers from 1997-99;

  • Former firefighter Jeffrey Hall, 46, of 115 Fifth St., Jeannette, was charged last fall with taking $3,500 in bingo proceeds from the Grandview Fire Department in Penn Township;

  • In September, former firefighter John K. Bycura of the Baldwin Independent Fire Co. No. 1 in Allegheny County pleaded guilty to bilking more than $73,245 from the department to pay personal bills;

  • Last October, former Braddock fire Chief Tom Petrovic, 46, and his brother, Robert, 52, also a fireman, were charged with skimming $24,000 from the Allegheny County department's bingo game receipts between 1999-2000;

  • In June, Michael J. Luke, 23, of Manor, a former Irwin ambulance attendant, was charged with stealing $4,000 from the Irwin Volunteer Fire Department's donation box;

  • Last year, the Baggaley Volunteer Fire Department in Unity Township declared bankruptcy and closed after numerous financial problems, including theft from accounts. In 1999, the department's former treasurer, Terry E. Simms of Hostetter, pleaded guilty to taking $11,000 in department funds.
  • "I used some of the money to pay bills and just for other things. I also have a gambling problem, and I do have it under control at the present time and will keep it that way," Sarosi told Brown and Galilei during the interview.

    "I am very sorry, and I will work out any payment plan that can be set up," he said.

    Sarosi also volunteered to write out a statement to detectives. In the statement, Sarosi estimated the thefts amounted to approximately $10,000.

    "I did have plans to pay this money back but just was not able at this time. I have made myself sick to the point I cannot sleep at night," he told detectives in the statement.

    After writing the statement admitting the thefts to police, Brown reported that Sarosi told him, "I'm glad it's over with <#201> I feel relieved."

    Brown alleges that between January 2001 and Sept. 30, when Sarosi was suspended, he failed to deposit $40,122 raised during the fire department's weekly Friday evening bingo games. The amount was determined after an audit.

    Also, Brown alleges between February 1998 through September 2001 Sarosi issued numerous checks from the fire department's bank account payable to "cash" or himself in the amount of $19,643. Detectives also allege that Sarosi diverted another $30,942 to himself from a special credit line account the company maintained for equipment purchases at National City Bank in Smithton.

    Detectives alleged that Sarosi forged the name of fire Chief Lawrence J. Nemec Jr. on checks written from a credit account. Those checks required the signature of two fire department officers.

    Attempts to reach Nemec for comment yesterday were unsuccessful. However, after Sarosi was suspended last fall, Nemec said that although the fire department was shaken by the thefts, it remains fiscally sound.

    Nemec also said the fire department implemented improved accounting methods after the thefts were discovered.

    The fire department, located along Route 31 between Ruffsdale and West Newton, was founded in 1972 and has about 30 active members. Sarosi had been a firefighter for approximately 10 years prior to his suspension.

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