Colwyn fire chief, 2 employees facing theft charges

Chad Pradelli Image
Monday, December 21, 2015
VIDEO: Colwyn fire chief, 2 employees charged with theft
Three members of the Colwyn Fire Department are charged with stealing money from their own firehouse.

COLWYN BOROUGH, Pa. (WPVI) -- Three members of the Colwyn Fire Department are facing charged for the theft of funds from their own firehouse.

Authorities say this was not a very sophisticated scheme. The suspects controlled Colwyn Borough Fire Company funds and simply wrote themselves checks and took out cash totaling more than $50,000.

Investigators escorted a handcuffed Colwyn Borough Fire Chief Gary Brice to court Monday afternoon to be charged with theft, conspiracy and other related charges.

Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan says Brice, Fire Company Treasurer Elizabeth Cellini and her daughter Lauren used the fire company's bank accounts as their own personal piggy bank.

Whelan says, "Most of it taken out in cash at the bank counter...some of it in checks being issued either to the mother, Betty Cellini, or to the boyfriend, the fire chief, Gary Brice."

Authorities got wind of the alleged theft after former borough manager, Paula Brown, informed them that fire company bills weren't being paid, though the nonprofit should have had money to do so.

When confronted, Elizabeth Cellini allegedly told investigators the expenditures were legitimate, but certain vendors wanted cash. Investigators say the bookkeeping records were shoddy, and they received simply a bag of receipts.

District Attorney Whelan explains, "One allegation when we found receipts that they gave us, was they spent it on dog treats and dog toys. Well, I don't even think they have a Dalmatian at the fire company."

In 2008, the fire company was raided for allegedly operating an illegal speakeasy, and the bankrupt borough itself has been under investigation for missing money for months.

Former Councilman Gary Brundage showed up at Monday's press conference held by the District Attorney's Office.

Brundage said, "I think this is a good first step - but t's a first step. There is a lot of stuff going on there. This is like the tip of the iceberg."

The District Attorney's Office says Elizabeth Cellini has retained an attorney and is expected to turn herself in. Her daughter's whereabouts though, at last check, were unknown.