Thousands missing from political fund overseen by fire chief, prosecutors say

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Fire Truck at Night

A former South Texas fire chief “misappropriated” thousands from the Brownsville Firefighters Association fund — a political action committee aimed at supporting candidates for office the firefighters support — a recent indictment alleges.

The money went missing when former Brownsville Fire Chief Carlos Elizondo oversaw that fund, according to prosecutors, KRGV Channel 5 News reported.

The fire chief was demoted to lieutenant in September after an audit revealed he authorized the rerouting of nearly 80 emergency calls to a private ambulance company. The audit alleges the orders cost taxpayers $62,000.

After the indictment for the missing money, however, Elizondo is now suspended without pay.

Elizondo’s attorney said that the former chief will fight the charges.

From KRGV Channel 5 News:

The indictment against Elizondo was filed Wednesday and states he had control over the PAC fund from May 2010 to March 2016. The indictment also alleges during that time, he knowingly and unlawfully misappropriated the money.

On Tuesday, his attorney, Noe D. Garza, said they dispute the findings.

“The charges are bogus and we intend to litigate them fully in court,” said Garza.

Lerma said this is about upholding the union’s credibility and integrity.

The Brownsville Firefighters Department has about 200 employees, the station reported. About 90 percent of those are part of the union, union president Jorge Lerma said.

Besides paying their dues to the association, Lerma said some firefighters also voluntarily donate $3 to $10 from each paycheck to the political fund. That averages about $8,000 to $9,000 per year, he said.

Trent Seibert can be reached at [email protected] or at 832-258-6119.

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Trent is an award-winning editor and reporter, who has previously worked The Denver Post, The (Nashville) Tennessean, and the San Diego Union-Tribune. Most recently, he was the investigative producer for Houston’s KTRK-TV ABC-13. He was also the editor and founder of Texas Watchdog, a ground-breaking news group that paved the way for this project. Trent is a teacher of journalism skills, and has shown hundreds of reporters and citizen-journalists how to use public records, databases and journalism tools to keep a watchful eye on their own local government.

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