Former Seaville Fire Chief and son indicted for fraud

Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced that the former chief of the Seaville Volunteer Fire and Rescue Company and his son, a member of that volunteer force, were indicted today for allegedly receiving payments of approximately $46,000 based on fraudulent invoices and receipts they submitted for reimbursement to the fire company and Upper Township Fire Commissioners.

The Division of Criminal Justice obtained the state grand jury indictments of Eugene Spiegel, 51, and Jacob Spiegel, 20, who are both of Seaville. It is alleged that through their fraudulent claims, Eugene stole $44,722 and Jacob stole $1,275.  Eugene was charged with second-degree official misconduct, second-degree conspiracy to commit official misconduct, two counts of third-degree theft by deception and fourth-degree falsifying records.  Jacob was charged with second-degree official misconduct, second-degree conspiracy to commit official misconduct and third-degree theft by deception.

Some of the alleged crimes were initially uncovered by members of the volunteer company in January 2014.  Eugene resigned on January 15 shortly after being confronted with the allegations; Jacob stayed on and served a 30-day suspension, but was later terminated in April. Eugene Spiegel is currently employed as an inspector with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs in the Office of Weights and Measures. Jacob is a part-time firefighter in Wildwood.

“The Spiegels allegedly pillaged the funds of an organization that exists to protect the public’s safety in the most extreme circumstances,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “Eugene Spiegel allegedly used his position as chief to systematically steal tens of thousands of dollars by taking advantage of trust placed in him by his fellow volunteers and though Jacob Spiegel acted by his father’s example, he was nevertheless a willing participant in the alleged crimes and benefited from his father’s position as well.”

The state investigation began in March 2014 following an internal review by the Seaville Fire and Rescue Company of its finances that revealed several reimbursements Eugene had received for training courses and clothing that he had never paid for and the company had never actually received. The financial review discovered that the fire company had issued approximately $18,000 in checks to a clothing apparel company that listed Eugene’s home address as its location. In addition, the investigation found that Eugene had been receiving reimbursements totaling more than $17,000 since 2011 for purchases of fire company apparel from a defunct company that ceased operations during Spiegel’s alleged scam. The fire company could find no evidence it ever received any apparel. It is also alleged that between 2010 and 2013, Eugene Spiegel received more than $9,500 for trainings he did not attend.

The internal investigation at the fire company began in January when a volunteer became suspicious that Jacob Spiegel allegedly submitted a fraudulent claim for $1,275 that Eugene approved with his signature. Jacob later allegedly told investigators that he had cashed the check, but had done so at his father’s direction.   

“Whether someone is appointed, elected or serves as a volunteer, they have no right to use their position as means to transform their organization into a personal ATM,” said Division of Criminal Justice Director Elie Honig. “We are working tirelessly get rid of public corruption and will prosecute it wherever we find it. “

Second-degree crimes carry a prison sentence of 5 to 10 years and a criminal fine of up to $150,000, while third-degree crimes carry a prison sentence of 3 to 5 years and a fine of up to $15,000. The indictments are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Deputy Attorneys General Jon Gilmore and Peter Lee presented the case to the grand jury on behalf of the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau. New Jersey State Police Corruption Bureau Detectives Laura Wheeler, David Feldstein and David Engelhard assisted with the investigation.