Wednesday, January 25, 2012

News: Clovis fire captain resigns in face of legal fire

 A former Clovis firefighter is now trying to put out a legal fire after he got caught stealing from his fellow firefighters.

Clovis Police have been investigating the former fire captain for three months. Now, John Watson admits the situation cost him his career. It's a story you'll only see on Action News.

Watson admitted to a reporter he did something he never should've done. He told Action News he regrets it and he's trying to make it right by paying back the money he took from the Clovis Firefighters' Association. But even if he does, investigators may not let him off the hook.

Watson served a long career at the Clovis Fire Department, rising to the rank of captain in charge of training. But as of last week, he's in search of a new career.

Watson resigned as he faced an investigation into embezzlement during his 10 years as treasurer for the Clovis Firefighters' Association -- a union representing dozens of Watson's fellow firefighters.

Action News uncovered two search warrants detailing the accusations leveled at the former captain. Investigators estimated somewhere between $80,000 and $150,000 disappeared from the union's bank accounts.

Clovis Police wrote in the warrants that Watson confessed to taking and using more than $50,000. When Action News approached him for a response, he admitted he took money from the union, but said he was trying to give it all back.

"As a matter of fact, we're close to reaching a settlement agreement (with the union)," he said.

Watson didn't want to say more than that on camera, but he told me he's lost a $100,000 a year job, his pension, and his dignity. His attorney said Watson took the money after his wife had medical issues. He told Action News there's a check ready to go to pay back every penny.

Watson said he went into debt to make restitution. But once his account is settled, he's hoping to avoid criminal charges and move on with his life.

The district attorney's office said they haven't decided yet whether to file charges against Watson.

Clovis Police wouldn't comment on their investigation, and city officials would only confirm that Watson resigned last week without a pension.

California Fire News 2011 

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