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FORMER ASSISTANT FIRE CHIEF SENTENCED TO THREE YEARS IN PRISON FOR MAIL FRAUD Defendant Operated Elaborate Scheme to Defraud South King Fire and Rescue

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 8, 2009

GRANT G. GASPARD, 51, of Olympia, Washington, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to three years in prison, three years of supervised release, and $959,200 in restitution for Mail Fraud. Until he resigned July 31, 2008, GASPARD was an assistant chief of South King Fire and Rescue, which also is known as King County Fire Protection District No. 39. In his plea agreement signed November 6, 2008, GASPARD admits he fraudulently obtained more than $500,000 from the fire district over several years. At sentencing U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez said, “This is a very sad day for everyone.... There was abuse of trust both public and professional.”

GASPARD, as assistant chief of the district, was in charge of the district’s financial and procurement operations. GASPARD admits he 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. In his plea agreement, GASPARD admits that on December 28, 2007, GASPARD caused King County to send a check for $98,000 to a mailbox he had set up in Tumwater, Washington.

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.

In his sentencing memo Assistant United States Attorney Mark Parrent urged prison time to send a message to other public employees who might be tempted to steal taxpayer funds. GASPARD, the prosecutor wrote, “knew that the money he was stealing could have been put to important uses: obtaining additional safety or medical equipment, for example. Instead, the defendant spent the money on his extravagant hobbies.” A review of the fire district records showed GASPARD caused the misuse of more than $775,000 in district funds. Much of the money was used to restore Mini-Cooper cars and for expensive photography equipment. Some of that equipment will now be auctioned off to pay towards the nearly $1 million in restitution.

According to records filed in the case, 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 investigation began.

GASPARD was arrested August 7, 2008, and was being held at the Federal Detention Center pending his trial. Following his guilty plea, GASPARD was ordered released with restrictions on his travel and an order not to contact anyone at South King Fire and Rescue.

In a statement read in court today, Fire Chief Allen Church said, “The public trusts... has been strained as a result of Mr. Gaspard’s activity. Mr. Gaspard’s conduct is a tremendous ‘black-eye’ for the Department.”

GASPARD remains out of custody, and will be ordered to report to a Bureau of Prisons facility in the next four to six weeks.

The case was investigated by Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Mark Parrent.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.

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