A Jackson County fire chief pleads guilty to embezzling funds for personal use

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — The chief of the Coalton volunteer fire department in Jackson County pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court today to using more than $200,000 in fire department funds for personal expenses.

Gavel leaning against a row of law books
[Adobe Stock]
Johnny Baker of Wellston pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud for the embezzlement, which included using fire department money to have items for his personal use shipped to his house.

Baker has worked for the volunteer fire department in Jackson County since 2009 in various roles and became chief in January 2023. He has been solely responsible for maintaining the department’s finances.

According to court documents, from 2020 until 2023, Baker used a fire department credit card for personal expenses, including vacations and entertainment, sports tickets, a utility task vehicle, firearms, home utility payments, electronics and clothing. Baker was the sole user of the credit card during this time.

Baker admitted to paying the credit card bills with fire department funds that he raised from the local community.

As part of his plea, Baker has agreed to pay approximately $226,000 in restitution.