District Attorney Katayoun M. Copeland and Chief Richard Herron of the Sharon Hill Police Department announced that the former Fire Chief of the Sharon Hill Fire Company is facing theft charges for making unauthorized cash withdrawals and bank card charges, stealing more than $4,300 for his own personal expenses, yc.news could exclusively report.
William Harry Benecke, 51, of the 200 block of Reese Street in Sharon Hill, who has been suspended from his position as Fire Chief, is charged theft by unlawful taking, theft by deception, and receiving stolen property, all felonies of the third degree. The announcement comes at the conclusion of an investigation into missing funds at the Sharon Hill Fire Company which began in April 2018 and was conducted by Detective Vincent Port of the Sharon Hill Borough Police Department and Detective John Hoffner of the District Attorney’s Criminal Investigation Division Economic Crime Unit.
On April 3, 2018, Sharon Hill Police Detective Vincent Port and CID Detective John Hoffner, met with members of the Sharon Hill Fire Company Board of Trustees in reference to missing funds from Sharon Hill Fire Company bank accounts.
During the meeting, detectives were advised that the Sharon Hill Borough Fire Company’s four open banking accounts, used for costs relating to Fire Company business, showed a total loss exceeding $4,000.00 from November 2017 to March 2018. It was also observed that a suspicious ATM withdrawal had been made by authorized account user Fire Chief William Benecke for $305.99 from Caesar’s Casino and Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey. After being alerted about the suspicious withdrawal, an internal overview of the accounts was conducted by the Board of Trustees who observed multiple unauthorized ATM withdrawals and purchases. Following this discovery, the Sharon Hill Fire Company Board of Trustees contacted police and thereafter met with Chief Benecke at the Sharon Hill Fire House, advising him that due to the discovered irregularities, he was suspended from the Fire Company pending an investigation.
Detectives launched an investigation into the thefts, and secured search warrants for the bank accounts. Through the course of the investigation, detectives discovered a total of 15 ATM withdrawals including the $305.99 ATM withdrawal from Caesars Atlantic City, NJ and five unauthorized purchases that were made from Amazon.com and the Apple iTunes Store. Those transactions took place from November 2017 to March 2018. Police were able to determine there were 20 unauthorized withdrawals totaling $4,359.60 from the Sharon Hill Fire Company bank accounts. These ATM withdrawals and unauthorized purchases were all made from the debit/credit cards issued to Benecke and which he turned over to the Fire Company at the start of the investigation.
“Mr. Benecke knowingly stole from the tax payers of Sharon Hill Borough to pay for his own personal expenses, breaching the trust of the very individuals he was appointed to serve and taking advantage of his position of authority,” District Attorney Katayoun M. Copeland told yc.news Thursday afternoon. “We commend the Sharon Hill Fire Company Board of Trustees for quickly discovering the financial irregularity and immediately contacting authorities, and commend Sharon Hill Police Detective Vincent Port and CID Detective John Hoffner and Sergeant Anthony Ruggieri for their exemplary work on this case.”