The Kinloch fire chief accused of stealing $140,000 from his already struggling district admitted to the crime Wednesday in federal court in St. Louis.
Darran Kelley, 47, pleaded guilty of all five charges, including three counts of wire fraud, one of federal program theft and one of making false statements to Social Security that resulted in him being overpaid by more than $110,000.
While the Kinloch Fire Protection District was failing to make its payments to AmerenUE, AT&T, American Water and the North Central County Fire Alarm System, Kelley was using the district’s money to gamble and buy personal items, officials said.
From January 2007 through January 2013, St. Louis County distributed more than $160,000 in tax revenue to the district. The bank account that held those funds also contained money from the city for payroll and operations. Kelley made one or more unauthorized cash withdrawals, officials said, and made at least one transfer to pay his personal credit card.
He also admitted stealing some of the money intended to help purchase a new fire engine. In June 2010, the Federal Emergency Management Agency gave the district a grant of more than $237,000, and the city put $15,000 toward the purchase of a $250,000 vehicle.
When it was reported in April 2011 that the district would be unable to pay its $2,300 insurance premium on the engine, residents made donations, creating a surplus investigators said Kelley also took.
They said he continued stealing even after the impoverished community’s fire district went out of service in December.
The charges said Kelley made a false statement in Social Security claims that resulted in an overpayment. Federal prosecutors said that amount was approximately $118,000, but public defender Sean Vicente said it was closer to $110,000.
Officials said Kelley collected Social Security disability benefits while hiding his $640 bi-weekly salary for the fire district.
Some of the counts carry maximum penalties of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, but District Judge Catherine Perry’s sentence will take into account federal guidelines tailored to the particular defendant and crime. Kelley is free on bail until his Oct. 16 sentencing.