Jeffrey Cochran pleaded not guilty to four counts of embezzlement Thursday. He was the President of the Local 881 union at the Barre City Fire Department when he allegedly stole from the union's bank account and used its credit card for personal use.
Cochran is accused of stealing $3,650 from the union's coffers, even though the city was paying him over $90,000 a year, according to Barre City Mayor Thom Lauzon.
"You shake your head and wonder, why anyone would throw their career away when they were helping people, when they were certified [as an EMT], and they throw their career away on a few thousand dollars. It makes no sense," Mayor Lauzon said.
Court documents show Cochran spent the money on a host of items, including a Berlin Police Cruiser. He was a former part-time officer at the Berlin Police Department, and the police chief says he paid with a bank check. Court documents show he withdrew from the union's bank account for that check.
Perhaps the most egregious of accusations is that Cochran stole $1,300 from a boot drop to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. The community donated money to the cause in July 2013, but it never made it to the charity. The firefighters ended up paying money from their own pockets to MDA, and the cash was eventually found in Cochran's locker.
"As a citizen who has family members who suffer from muscular dystrophy, I find that appalling," said Mayor Lauzon.
Other items Cochran allegedly spent the money on include his own personal cable bills, gas for his car, and a monthly subscription to Pongo.com, a resume building website. Court documents show Cochran claimed he accidentally used the wrong credit card for some of those purchases.
Mayor Lauzon says when the accusations came to light, he had city auditors check Cochran's timesheets. They found no discrepancies.
"He had the trust of city officials and his fellow firefighters, and that's gone," said Mayor Lauzon.
The firefighters union has completely changed its auditing process, according to new President Matthew Cetin, also the Barre City Fire Captain. He says they are moving forward now that the case is in the hands of the courts.
Neither Cochran nor his lawyer wanted to comment on the charges after the arraignment. If convicted, Cochran faces up to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
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