Former Inter-Canyon fire chief David MacBean was sentenced Friday afternoon to eight years in prison for stealing more than $647,000 from the Morrison-based fire district over a three-year period.
MacBean was sentenced to six years in prison for two theft counts and two years for an embezzlement charge. MacBean pleaded guilty in April.
The sentence also includes five years of probation after prison. MacBean faced a maximum sentence of 27 years in jail.
As part of his plea, MacBean agreed to pay back the stolen funds. It is not known how the former chief will pay back the $547,351.59. MacBean originally owed $647,351.59, but that number was reduced after Inter-Canyon received a $100,000 insurance payment from the Special District Association of Colorado.
In a packed courtroom Friday afternoon, people from the district testified about how the theft has affected the fire department. Thirteen people, including residents, firefighters and Inter-Canyon board members, spoke on behalf of the department.
“The most destructive thing (MacBean) has done is destroy the morale of this department,” said Capt. Donna Simpson. “Morale is the lowest it’s ever been.”
“This betrayal was so stunning,” said Kelly Cross, office administrator for Inter-Canyon. “(MacBean’s) crimes have spread like a cancer throughout this community.”
“(MacBean’s actions) have caused a reduction in training and in equipment upgrades. As a resident, that scares me. (Residents) shouldn’t have to worry about the fire department stealing money,” said Kerry Prielipp, an Inter-Canyon board member.
Inter-Canyon board President Joe Marcus said donations to the department are down by 56 percent since MacBean’s actions came to light last October.
Board Treasurer Karl Firor urged the judge to send MacBean to prison.
“If there is no jail time, then where is the punishment for this crime?” Firor asked.
People told stories of MacBean hosting barbecues at his house and speculated that the groceries, grill and other items were purchased with district funds.
“I have memories of riding in the truck with (MacBean) and hearing about this great bonus he got at work that allowed him to buy these items,” said deputy chief Skip Shirlaw.
Ten people, including friends, neighbors and family members, spoke on MacBean’s behalf and asked the court to grant probation and work release so that MacBean could pay back the stolen funds.
"(MacBean) violated public trust,” said Rob Schreck, MacBean’s childhood friend. “His world was falling apart. I think he subconsciously wanted to hurt himself. (The theft) was a massive cry for help.”
MacBean’s father, Jack, asked the judge for probation so his son could pay back the stolen funds.
“Allow him to work and pay this back,” he said.
“This was completely out of Dave’s character,” said John MacBean, an older brother. “He’s prepared to do whatever will make this right.”
Neighbors and Inter-Canyon residents Scott and Tammy Braun also spoke in support of the former chief.
“He can’t pay this back if he’s behind bars,” Scott Braun said.
The sentencing ended with MacBean addressing the judge.
“This is the most difficult day of my life,” MacBean said. “There are no words to describe the remorse I have for my actions.”
MacBean apologized and said he took full responsibility for stealing the funds. He said he had plans to pay back the money and that it would take 15 years to make restitution.
The former chief said he also wanted to avoid prison so he could continue therapy for his addictive personality and continue making child-support payments.
“I’m willing to do whatever it takes,” MacBean said.
After hearing both sides, Judge Jeffrey Pilkington read his opinion and sentenced MacBean.
“(MacBean) was the leader of that department,” Pilkington said. “His fellow firefighters, the board and citizens of that district put their trust in Mr. MacBean. Something went very wrong. MacBean deceived, betrayed and stole from the citizens … in a large way.
“I believe MacBean has damaged trust in public servants (in general),” Pilkington continued. “I believe a prison sentence is necessary in this instance.”
Dave Thomas, MacBean’s attorney, had requested probation and work release instead of prison time.
“The court is very skeptical of MacBean’s ability to repay this amount,” Pilkington said.
MacBean talked to family members and friends before being handcuffed and escorted out of the courtroom by Jeffco deputies.
MacBean was named fire chief in 2009 after jointing the department as a volunteer in 2004. He served as chief until March 2013, when he was dismissed after the theft was discovered.
From 2010 to 2012, MacBean used the district’s credit card to make unauthorized purchases at stores and online retailers. According to court documents, the former chief used district funds to purchase photo equipment, guitars, firearms and various electronics.
In an exclusive interview with Evergreen Newspapers in June, the former chief said a lack of oversight and his own personal problems led him to steal the money.
The next Inter-Canyon board meeting is at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 9 at Inter-Canyon Station 1, 7939 S. Turkey Creek Road in Morrison.
For more information, visit www.intercanyonfire.org.
Contact Daniel Laverty at 303-350-1042 or Daniel@evergreenco.com. Check ColumbineCourier.com for updates and breaking news. Follow Daniel on Twitter @LavertyReports.