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Friday, March 2, 2012

Mount Shasta fire chief, a former deputy, charged with stealing district funds

 The former chief of the Mount Shasta Fire Protection District is charged with misappropriation of public funds after allegedly using his district credit card to purchase between $5,000 and $10,000 in personal items.

Siskiyou County District Attorney Kirk Andrus said Christopher Baker, who has resigned, faces up to three years in the county jail if he's convicted on the single embezzlement count.

"They run the gamut from recreation to personal expenses," Andrus said of Baker's alleged purchases.

Sheriff Jon Lopey said Baker is a former Siskiyou County sheriff's deputy, who left the job about seven or eight years ago.

District officials contacted the Siskiyou County Auditor-Controller's Office a few weeks ago after they began to suspect something was amiss with the district's funds, Siskiyou County Sheriff's spokeswoman Jayme Lynch said.

The auditor looked into the account and contacted the sheriff's office to start a criminal investigation, Lynch said.

She said the district has hired an auditor to comb the district's accounts to determine the extent of the thefts.

Andrus said the district allowed Baker to buy items without having another person approve the funds.

"For most of 2011, there wasn’t another set of eyes looking at those expenses," Andrus said.

Though he's been issued a notice to appear in court, Baker hasn't yet been arrested. Lynch said he's been cooperating with investigators.

Andrus said Baker is scheduled to to be arraigned March 21. Under new sentencing guidelines geared at shrinking the state's prison population, Baker can't be sentenced to prison if he's convicted, though he can be sentenced to jail time, Andrus said.

A message left this morning at the fire district's office wasn't immediately returned.

There are two fire departments in Mount Shasta. One serves the city itself. The district that employed Baker provides fire protection for the town's unincorporated areas.

Source: Redding Record - Link

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