|Explaining the raid|
Affidavit: Probe examines purchases made on fire districtís credit cards
By JIM SECKLER|
Mohave Daily News
KINGMAN ó Documents recently released show purchases made on Colorado City Fire Districtís credit cards included trips, computers, food and other personal items.
Mohave County and Arizona law enforcement officers searched three fire stations in Colorado City and one fire station in Hildale, Utah, Tuesday. Also searched were the homes of Colorado City Fire Chief Jake Barlow and Colorado City Manager David Darger.
Investigators searched the fire stationís computers and financial records and financial records discovered at the two homes. Information included tax returns, pay stubs, travel claims, credit card receipts and spread sheets.
The investigation looked into the alleged misuse of the fire departmentís credit cards for personal use in connection with the fire departments and the city government. No arrests were made Tuesday but possible charges coming from the ongoing investigation may take months, Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith said.
Charges listed on the search warrantís affidavit include fraudulent schemes and artifices and a less serious charge of failure to comply with the duties and liabilities of a custodian of public money.
Barlow and Darger are members of the Colorado City Fire District Board. The search looked at expenses and purchases allegedly made by Barlow and Darger with public money from September 2004 to June 2009, according to the search warrantís affidavit.
In January 2008, a St. George, Utah, restaurant owner called Mohave County saying that Barlow allegedly bought dinner for his family using the fire districtís credit card. Records also show that he allegedly used the credit cards for a trip to an Idaho hot springs for motel rooms, gas and food. Checking with the nearest fire department revealed that no fire training had been conducted in the area at that time, the affidavit stated.
Also purchased on the fire districtís credit card at Costco in St. George were a leather sofa, computers, tax preparation software, several IPod-like devices and food totaling almost $23,000 from 2004 to 2008. Also more than $13,800 in purchases at Samís Club were made including clothes, food and a queen-size mattress, according to the affidavit.
Invoices of New Egg, a Web site that sells electronic equipment such as computers, televisions and cameras, show purchased items that totaled more than $25,000 from 2004 to 2008. The items were allegedly sent to Barlowís Colorado City home, according to the affidavit.
The Colorado City Fire Department consists of about 100 volunteer firefighters and paramedics and five full-time employees. The fire district does not have sleeping quarters or a kitchen, and firefighters and paramedics usually eat and sleep at home. The fire district, along with the Hildale Fire Department, average about three calls a week.
According to the Mohave County Assessorís Office, the Colorado City Fire Districtís secondary tax rate for the 2009-10 fiscal year is $3.20 per $100 assessed value on all property in the district. The assessed value of property in the district is $15.5 million. The operating budget for the fire district is $497,067.
The fire district covers about 450 square miles in the Arizona Strip area of Mohave County covering the communities of Colorado City, Cane Beds, Kaibab and Moccasin.
Originally published Friday, April 9, 2010
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