Former Fire Company Treasurer To Serve Five Years For Theft; $150K Restitution Ordered As Part Of Plea Deal

SNOW HILL — A former Showell Volunteer Fire Company firefighter and treasurer, charged with theft last spring after a years-long investigation revealed he had used the fire company’s bank account to make personal transactions over the period of three years, pleaded guilty this week and will serve five years in prison.

In 2013, the Worcester Bureau of Investigations (WCBI) began investigating a theft from the Showell Volunteer Fire Company. During the investigation, it was learned Mark Widgeon, now 54, of Snow Hill, had used the fire company’s bank accounts to make multiple personal transactions, including buying a vehicle and funding a gastric bypass procedure.

On Monday, Widgeon pleaded guilty to theft scheme over $500 and was sentenced to 15 years in prison, all but five of which was then suspended. He was also placed on supervised probation for five years upon his release and was ordered to pay $150,000 in restitution to the victim, in this case the Showell Volunteer Fire Company. As part of the guilty plea, Widgeon presented the court a check for $57,000 to be given to the fire company. He is also to write a letter of apology within 30 days and fulfill the reimbursement order by Nov. 30.

At the time of the thefts, Widgeon was a volunteer firefighter and treasurer of the company. With the assistance of a forensic auditor, WCBI detectives learned from 2009 to 2012, Widgeon, while in the position of treasurer, made multiple purchases using Showell Volunteer Fire Company bank accounts totaling several thousand dollars.

While it appears the theft scheme was carried out by Widgeon alone and there was no indication of any malfeasance by the Showell Volunteer Fire Company at all, the department issued a contrite statement following his arrest last March essentially apologizing to the community it serves.

“The members of the Showell Volunteer Fire Department would like to apologize for the recent situation involving a former member and the department,” the statement reads. “The actions of one individual have caused much damage to the department, its reputation and community.”

The fire company’s statement goes on to say once Widgeon’s theft scheme was identified, the department immediately contacted the authorities and cooperated fully with the investigation.

“This has been isolated and when discovered the department immediately reached out to the police and the State’s Attorney’s office for assistance and guidance,” the statement reads. “We have cooperated fully and at no time has your fire and EMS service been effected and will continue with no interruption.”

The statement asserts the discovery of the alleged theft scheme has caused the department to review and tighten its bookkeeping policies to assured the community similar incidents would not happen in the future.

“During their investigation, the department has developed many new protocols for us to follow, which were implemented to assure better accounting to prevent this from happening again,” the statement reads. “As most of you know, we are your friends, neighbors and family and we volunteer to serve you and the community. Again, we hope you will accept our most sincere apologies and give us the opportunity to make this right.”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.