California Fire Captain Sentenced to Jail for Embezzling from Firefighters Union

Michael Bechtold used the money for San Jose Sharks season tickets, a trip to Disneyland and a divorce attorney
Henry K. Lee / The San Francisco Chronicle Published Thursday, January 19, 2012

SONOMA COUNTY, Calif.--A former captain with the Rancho Adobe Fire Protection District in Sonoma County has been sentenced to a year in jail for embezzling more than $63,000 from the firefighters union and using the money for San Jose Sharks season tickets, a trip to Disneyland and a divorce attorney.

Michael Bechtold, 39, of Rohnert Park must also pay full restitution and spend five years on probation, Judge Ken Gnoss of Sonoma County Superior Court said at a hearing Tuesday in Santa Rosa.

Bechtold stole money that other firefighters had paid to the Rancho Adobe Firefighters Association in Penngrove, where he was treasurer.

The scheme was uncovered when association board members asked him for financial reports. Bechtold delayed providing them and began to miss association meetings.

Bechtold forged and cashed several association checks and spent the money on housing, the Sharks season tickets and a trip to Disneyland, and to pay a divorce attorney and child support, authorities said.

At a hearing in November, Gnoss also found Bechtold guilty of a probation violation stemming from a 2009 misdemeanor domestic violence conviction.
January 19, 2012

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