Volunteer firefighter charged in $43K theft after allegedly keeping fish fry funds for himself

Mathew Mathis indicted on wire fraud

BARTHOLOMEW COUNTY, Ind. – A grand jury has filed a six-count indictment against a former treasurer with the Hope Fire Department.

Mathew Mathis is charged with six counts of wire fraud and accused of misappropriating $43,386 from the fire department.

According to the indictment filed Oct. 2, Mathis made dozens of cash withdrawals under the false pretense the funds were for fire department expenses, but Mathis used the money for personal expenses.

As Call 6 Investigates reported in 2017, a state audit found Mathis failed to deposit failed to deposit $7,081 in fundraiser proceeds from the 2015 fish fry.

The audit ordered Mathis to repay $48,252.21 to the taxpayers, including reimbursing the state of Indiana $4,611.21 for special investigation costs racked up due to sloppy bookkeeping practices.

The Hope Fire Department is a 28-member fire department providing fire, rescue, and basic life support protection to residents in the town located northwest of Columbus along IN-9.

State auditors criticized the fire department because the treasurer had no required oversight.

“Due to this lack of monitoring and segregation of duties, checks issued without supporting documentation, undocumented cash withdrawals, failure to deposit the cash change fund, failure to deposit fundraiser proceeds, and payment of penalties and service charges, were able to occur and not be identified timely,” read the audit.

Call 6 Investigates was unable to reach Mathis for comment.

Fire Chief Randy Wood told Call 6 Investigates Mathis was suspended pending the outcome of the criminal investigation.

“If he’s convicted, he will be terminated,” said Wood.

Call 6 Investigates called the fire department Thursday for a response to Mathis’ indictment, and we are waiting to hear back.

Chief Wood said they contacted the Indiana State Police to investigate the matter.

The fire chief said the agency has improved its financial procedures, and that a CPA now provides a monthly report on their books.

Mathis is one of 15 public officials charged as part of Operation Public Accountability, a joint operation involving the US Attorney’s Office, State Board of Accounts, Indiana State Police, prosecutors and other agencies.

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