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FORMER ASSISTANT FIRE CHIEF ARRESTED ON FRAUD CHARGES Defendant Charged with Operating Elaborate Scheme to Defraud South King Fire and Rescue

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 7, 2008

FBI agents arrested GRANT G. GASPARD, 51, of Olympia, Washington, today on charges that he defrauded South King Fire and Rescue through an elaborate scheme that used false invoices and misuse of his government credit card. Until he resigned effective July 31, 2008, GASPARD was as assistant chief of South King Fire and Rescue, which also is known as King County Fire Protection District No. 39. According to an FBI agent’s affidavit supporting a criminal complaint that was filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle and unsealed today, the evidence the agent reviewed showed that Gaspard had fraudulently obtained more than $500,000 from the fire district over several years.

The criminal complaint charges GASPARD with three counts of mail fraud and two counts of wire fraud. According to the affidavit, GASPARD, as assistant chief of the district, was in charge of the district’s financial and procurement operations. The affidavit said GASPARD used his position with the fire district to initiate and approve phony invoices and purchase orders over a period of several years. GASPARD also submitted fraudulent documentation in support of thousands of dollars worth of improper purchases on his district-issued credit card, according to the affidavit. South King Fire and Rescue is an independent government agency that provides fire protection and emergency services in the Federal Way and Des Moines areas of South King County. It is funded primarily by property tax assessments in the area it serves.

The affidavit described that evidence the agent reviewed showed how, between June 2007 and February, 2008, the district paid approximately $267,000 to a company for goods and services never received by the district. The district sent the checks to a company address that actually was a private mailbox that GASPARD had leased, the affidavit said. Bank records show deposits in the amount of those checks into an account that was opened both in GASPARD’s name and the name of the business.

The affidavit also described how GASPARD approved purchase orders and credit card purchases for more than $100,000 worth of merchandise that the district never received. Those purchases included items such as high-end Nikon photographic equipment, including one lens for $8,499.95. The affidavit cited records showing purchases of Nikon gear for a total of more than $30,000. According to the affidavit, the records also showed the purchase of such items as a Sony high-definition television, a Blu-Ray player, Apple computers and related equipment worth well over $30,000, night vision scopes, and gear related to firearms such as rifle scopes and laser sights.

According to the affidavit, in mid-July a fire district employee spotted some questionable transactions involving GASPARD and looked further into district records. The employee reported his findings to the district’s chief, who suspended GASPARD on July 14, 2008. The next week, lawyers representing the district contacted federal law enforcement and the FBI has been investigating the matter since that time. The investigation is continuing.

FBI agents arrested GASPARD in Fife, Washington today without incident.

GASPARD made his initial appearance today in U.S. District Court in Seattle before Magistrate Judge Brian Tsuchida. At the U.S. Attorney’s request, Magistrate Judge Tsuchida ordered GASPARD held without bail at the Federal Detention Center in Seatac pending a court hearing Tuesday, August 12 at 2 p.m. before Magistrate Judge Tsuchida at the federal courthouse in Seattle. At that hearing, Magistrate Judge Tsuchida will determine whether or not GASPARD will be released from custody pending trial.

Each count of mail and wire fraud is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The complaint is only an allegation and the law presumes defendants to be innocent unless they are proven guilty in court.

The case is being investigated by Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Mark Parrent. The FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office acknowledge the complete cooperation and assistance provided by Chief Allen D. Church and the personnel of South King Fire and Rescue during the investigation.

For additional information please contact Assistant United States Attorney Mark Parrent at (206) 553-4113.

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