West Point, PA
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August 23, 2103

DA: Ex-Treasurer Of Upper Gwynedd Township Fire Company Stole $250K

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Pa. (CBS) — The former treasurer of the Upper Gwynedd Township Fire Company stole money to fund trips, buy expensive jewelry and even to pay for his daughter’s wedding in Las Vegas, authorities allege Friday.

Ronald Kenneth “Ken” Nolan was arrested and is facing numerous, including theft, for allegedly stealing nearly $250,000.

According to investigators, Nolan served as the treasurer of the fire company for 24 years. In December 2012, elections were held and Nolan was voted out from his position.

The incoming treasurer immediately began to examine the Fire Company’s finances and discovered irregularities that led to a criminal investigation by the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office.

Through an audit and criminal investigation, authorities found that Nolan allegedly stole $249,703.77 of Upper Gwynedd Township Fire Company funds and used it for his personal expenses between 2006-2012, all while he served as the volunteer Treasurer of the organization.

Authorities say Nolan stole in two ways: cash advances from the Fire Company’s bank accounts in the amount of $116,000.00 and two credit cards linked to the Fire Company’s account to fund personal activities and expenses.

According to investigators, the expenditures included vacations to Florida, Jamaica, China and 15 trips to Las Vegas. In addition, it is alleged that Nolan used Fire Company funds to pay expenses related to his daughter’s 2006 wedding celebration in Las Vegas, including airline transportation for wedding guests.

Nolan is also accused of using Fire Company funds to purchase jewelry, computers, clothing, spa visits and tickets to sporting events.

In addition, Nolan allegedly used the credit cards to withdraw thousands of dollars in cash from the Fire Company’s account to gamble.

Nolan surrendered to authorities and was arraigned on Friday.

He has been charged with Theft by Unlawful Taking, Theft by Deception, Theft by Failure to Make Required Disposition of Funds Received, Access Device Fraud, Dealing in Proceeds of Unlawful Activity, and Misapplication of Entrusted Property.

On Friday afternoon, The Board of Commissioners of Upper Gwynedd Township released a statement that read in part:

“While the Board of Commissioners of Upper Gwynedd Township are concerned about the charges filed against Mr. Ken Nolan, the Board is confident that the financial position of the West Point Volunteer Fire Department is such that it will continue to provide the same level of services to the Township that we as residents have come to expect.”


August 26, 2013

Theft charges in fire co. heat up Upper Gwynedd

Upper Gwynedd Township is heating up — over politics outside of its fire company and alleged criminal activity within it.

The controversy emerged last week, when Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman announced the arrest of Ronald Kenneth Nolan, the former treasurer of the Upper Gwynedd Township Volunteer Fire Company, on charges including theft by unlawful taking in the case of $249,703.77 that went missing from fire company funds between 2006-2012.

Authorities allege that Nolan used the money to pay for personal expenses, including vacations to China, Jamaica, Miami, and 15 trips to Las Vegas. He also is said to have paid for gambling in Vegas casinos and costs associated with his daughter’s 2006 wedding in Las Vegas.

Details are starting to emerge that paint a picture — an election-season picture — of the commission not heeding warnings from a fire company official, according to Upper Gwynedd resident Greg Moll, a lawyer who is active in the township’s Democratic party.
Moll said Monday that commissioners did nothing when first approached with suspicions about a year ago that then-treasurer Nolan might be pocketing money.

He plans on going to Monday night’s regularly scheduled commission meeting to ask them about why they didn’t take action when they learned there might be a problem. Moll has heard that other residents or members of the fire company might attend as well.

Commissioners on Monday afternoon did not return a message asking for comment.
Joe Bifolco, president of the fire company, confirmed that he approached a commissioner in late August or early September last year suggesting that Nolan might be embezzling money. When commissioners offered no help, the nonprofit fire company itself paid $31,000 to an accounting firm to conduct a forensic audit.

Fire company officials ousted Nolan before auditors examined the records.

“We voted him out of office because we had a suspicion of misuse of funds,” Bifolco said, “and we knew by removing him, it’s just common sense, that gives us access to everything we had to get access to.”

Bifolco said the audit the fire company paid for only looked for missing money up to $250,000 because its loss or theft insurance policy on all members covers up to $250,000.

“To me, it wouldn’t have been financially responsible for us to continue counting past the amount we could collect from the insurance company,” he said.
Ferman said Friday that her office would look at more records covering more years during Nolan’s tenure.

The controversy isn’t likely to go away soon. Moll said his concern about the theft charges were not related to politics. But a municipal election will be coming up in November, when two incumbents will face challenges from Democratic candidates.

Moll pointed out that he got involved after fire company members contacted him — and that there were both Republican and Democratic members who were upset about the whole episode.

Since the missing money was identified, the fire company has embraced a number of accounting reforms — including stripping the treasurer of signing authority over expenditures and requiring multiple officials’ signatures for account transactions.

The department, whose annual budget is about $175,000, gets about $70,000 yearly from the township. It raises the rest itself.

September 4, 2013

Embezzlement Trial Ordered For Former Upper Gwynedd Fire Official

UPPER GWYNEDD, Pa. (CBS) — A former fire department official in Montgomery County has been ordered to stand trial on charges that he stole nearly a quarter of a million dollars while he was the company’s treasurer for more than two decades.

Prosecutors believe they have a solid case against Ken Nolan, who waived his preliminary hearing on theft and related charges. The 62-year-old Skippack man was the former treasurer for the Upper Gwynedd Fire Company and spent more than 20 years as the township fire marshal.

Prosecutor Noah Marlier says Nolan stole the money by writing cash advances to himself and using two fire company credit cards. In doing so, Marlier says, Nolan compromised fire safety:

“This money that he took could have been spent on the firefighters that are putting themselves at risk every day, that are on the front lines, that are saving lines — that’s what they are tasked to do.”

Marlier says the money was spent on lavish vacations, tickets to sporting events, jewelry, and his daughter’s wedding

Defense attorney Tim Woodward says Nolan confessed to what he did and is deeply remorseful, but would not offer an explanation for what happened.