Former fire chief pleads guilty to fraud

TRENTON – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman today announced that the former chief of the Seaville Volunteer Fire and Rescue Company pleaded guilty today to receiving payments of approximately $46,000 based on fraudulent invoices and receipts he submitted for reimbursement to the fire company and Upper Township Fire Commissioners.

Eugene Spiegel, 51, pleaded guilty to second-degree conspiracy before Judge John C. Porto in Cape May County Superior Court. As part of the plea agreement, the state is recommending a five-year state prison sentence and that Spiegel be banned from all future public employment. He also will be required to pay restitution in the amount of $46,177. Spiegel previously was employed as an inspector with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs in the Office of Weights and Measures.  He was terminated from that position after being indicted in September 2014.

“Spiegel pillaged the funds of an organization that exists to protect the public’s safety in the most extreme circumstances,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “He abused his position as chief to systematically steal tens of thousands of dollars by taking advantage of the trust placed in him by his fellow volunteers.”

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 Spiegel 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 Spiegel’s home address as its location. In addition, the investigation found that he 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 scam. The fire company could find no evidence it ever received any apparel. Additionally, between 2010 and 2013, Spiegel received more than $9,500 for firefighter trainings he did not attend.

Charges remain pending against Spiegel’s son Jacob Spiegel, 20, of Seaville, who was indicted along with his father in September for receiving a reimbursement of $1,275 for a training course he allegedly did not attend in his capacity as a volunteer firefighter with the Seaville fire company.

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

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. Deputy Attorney General Lee took the guilty plea today from Eugene Spiegel.  New Jersey State Police Corruption Bureau Detectives Laura Wheeler, David Feldstein and David Engelhard assisted with the investigation.

Former fire chief pleads guilty to fraud