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May 01, 2012 05:52 PM

Former Tea Fire Dept. Treasurer Pleads Not Guilty

She kept the books for the Tea Volunteer Fire Department; now she's facing 15 years in prison.

Investigators say 46-year-old Denae Baustian stole more than $170,000 from the department. She made her first court appearance Tuesday on one count of grand theft.

The Harrisburg woman was the treasurer for the Tea Volunteer Fire Department. She's charged with stealing thousands of dollars over the course of the last two years dating back to January 2010.

According to authorities, Baustian would present false financial reports to fire department members so they didn't suspect any missing money.

The president of the Tea Fire Department stumbled across the alleged crime and cover up when he took over last fall. He says Baustian even took some of the money from a scholarship and retirement account the department set up.

Tuesday, Baustian pleaded not guilty to one count of aggravated grand theft.

Judge Larry Long appointed the public defender's office to represent Baustian in court and a trial date has been set for August.

Baustian left the fire department late last year after state auditors uncovered the alleged embezzlement.

Authorities aren't saying where Baustian spent the money, but the former bookkeeper now knows that she is facing prison time if she is convicted.

The Tea Fire Department has now consolidated its accounts and is performing more regular audits of its finances.  The fire department also has a more thorough process to check up on citizens who want to be firefighters.

Shortly after Baustian's arrest the department released a statement saying, "The community puts their trust in the fire department to protect lives and property and we expect our members to live up to that expectation."
 

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