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Plea expected in embezzlement from VFD

June 10, 2018 GMT

HUNTINGTON — A Hurricane, West Virginia, man is expected to be the second person convicted of embezzling from the Teays Valley Volunteer Fire Department, according to documents filed in federal court Thursday claiming a loss of more than $150,000 for the department.

According to a federal information, which can only be filed with the permission of a defendant who plans to enter a guilty plea, Clifford Keith Gwinn, who was the vice president of the VFD from July 2011 to 2016, embezzled at least $178,790.20 from the fire department by creating a second bank account under the department’s name and transferring funds to that account.

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The information charges Gwinn with two counts: federal program theft and failure to truthfully account for and pay over withholding and Social Security taxes.

According to the information filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, Gwinn worked for the department from July 2011 through 2016. As part of his duties as vice president and fiscal officer, Gwinn was in charge of all financial affairs for the department, including paying bills, controlling paychecks, tax preparation and other duties.

During the period Gwinn embezzled funds, the Teays Valley VFD received grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which allowed the fire department to pay firefighters and to purchase and maintain equipment.

Despite the department already having an established bank account, in 2013 Gwinn opened an additional bank account at a separate baking location. He would transfer VFD funds to the new banking account and write himself checks, unbeknown to and unauthorized by the fire department.

The account went unnoticed until November 2016.

In a second count, prosecutors allege Gwinn failed to pay the Internal Revenue Service more than $78,000 in taxes the fire department had withheld from its employees’ paychecks in 2015 and 2016.

In January, Kathy Sue Gwinn, 62, the wife of Clifford Gwinn, pleaded guilty to theft from a program receiving federal funds, admitting to embezzling $75,356.70 from the department as a volunteer payroll clerk. She is scheduled to be sentenced June 18 in Huntington and will be required to pay restitution.

Follow reporter Courtney Hessler at Facebook.com/CHesslerHD and via Twitter @HesslerHD.