PINE TOWNSHIP —
An ex-firefighter who stole money from his union should consider volunteering for a rural fire company as part of his required community service, the judge told him at his sentencing hearing.
Jason Clepper apologized for stealing money to support a gambling habit before Judge Daniel P. Wallace sentenced him Tuesday in Mercer County Common Pleas Court.
“I would like to apologize to everyone I’ve hurt because of this,” the former Sharon firefighter said.
Clepper, 33, formerly secretary of International Association of Fire Fighters Local 417, was initially charged with four felony counts of theft, accusing him of stealing more than $6,000, most of it from the union’s checking account. After those charges were changed during plea bargaining, he pleaded guilty April 8 to a single misdemeanor charge of theft by unlawful taking.
Randall T. Hetrick, his attorney, pointed out that Clepper, who was going through a divorce, had already repaid about $2,000 before he was charged because he knew an impending audit would disclose his theft.
Clepper made complete restitution to the union treasury at the time of his preliminary hearing in December before District Judge Dennis M. Songer, Sharon, Hetrick said.
Noting that Clepper had no criminal record, that he was remorseful and had been fired from his city job, that he had paid back the money he took and has been attending support group meetings for people with gambling problems, Wallace said he was a good candidate for probation.
He sentenced Clepper to 36 months of probation, ordered him to pay court costs and to perform 200 hours of community service. A condition of his probation is that he continue attending Gambling Anonymous meetings at least once a week.
“Community service with a volunteer fire company would be appropriate for you, and not just as a firefighter but because you had been a secretary,” Wallace said. “I know that volunteer companies would like to have someone like you and they’re hurting for people.”