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Prosecutor: Rescue Squad Member Stole From Paralyzed 7-Year-Old

March 11, 1995

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) _ For six years, Richard J. Solkin helped people as a member of the Northfield Volunteer Rescue Squad.

And when a 7-year-old boy he didn’t know was left paralyzed after a traffic accident, Solkin came to the rescue: He arranged for a hospital visit from Santa Claus, set up a fund for donations and helped spearhead a fund-raising effort.

The family of Devon Fuentes was so touched, they made him the boy’s godfather.

But prosecutors say Solkin’s action were less than altruistic. They charged him Friday with stealing about $13,000 from the boy’s fund _ nearly half of what was raised.

Solkin, 23, also was charged with stealing from the Northfield Volunteer Rescue Squad’s support fund. He was free pending an arraignment.

Chief Thomas Corona said Solkin was suspended from the rescue squad.

Devon, who was struck by a car in 1993 and paralyzed from the neck down, doesn’t know yet about the charges. His family wants him focusing on his rehabilitation.

``We don’t want to get him totally upset any more than what he’s going through,″ said the boy’s father, David, an unemployed construction worker.

``Right now, Devon comes first,″ he said. ``I’m not going to deny the fact that if he were in front of me right now, I’d grab his noodle neck. But I won’t. I’ll let the law take its course.″

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