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Chester County Press

Treasurer embezzles from fire company

10/15/2014 04:35PM ● By Lev

Last week, Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan announced the arrest of defendant Hower S. Smith III for stealing more than $300,000 from the Westwood Fire Company from 2006 through 2012. Smith was a longtime member of the fire company, and the treasurer for Westwood from 2007 through 2012.

“This crime was a shocking betrayal of trust,” Hogan said. “The defendant used the stolen funds to go on extravagant vacations and live the high life. Greed drove this defendant to steal from his community and those who protect it.”

Smith, 57, last lived in Coatesville. He had been a member of the fire company for about 40 years. His father had also been a longtime member of Westwood. The fire company serves Valley Township, East Fallowfield Township, West Caln Township, Wallace Township, East Brandywine Township, and West Brandywine Township.

Smith's thefts came to light in 2012, when he charged more than $2,000 worth of unauthorized purchases to a fire company credit card while on vacation in Hawaii. Westwood officials immediately notified the Valley Township Police Department and the Chester County Detectives. Smith was removed from office in January of 2012 when fire company officials discovered the theft.

Smith used the Westwood Fire Company credit card to make over 400 personal purchases, forged signatures on more than 100 checks that he wrote out to his personal business, stole from the firehouse safe, manipulated bingo records to steal money from fundraising activities, and charged the fire company for services and products he failed to deliver. Smith used the stolen funds to take vacations, purchase season tickets to the Phillies, purchase pool supplies, purchase clothing, rent hotel rooms, rent vehicles, and pay for meals in restaurants.

He has been charged with felony theft, forgery, and related charges.

Westwood Fire Company executive officer John Sly said, “The members of the Westwood Fire Company are both deeply saddened and angry at the alleged betrayal of trust by one of our longtime members. … The Westwood Fire Company would like to express our appreciation to all of the generous contributors who donate to our organization to keep us operating.”

The case was investigated by the Chester County Detectives and the Valley Police Department. Assistant District Attorney Alex Gosfield has been assigned to prosecute the case. 

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