U.S. Air Force fire chief pleads guilty
The former chief of fire service for the U.S. Air Force has pleaded guilty to two federal crimes, one for mishandling a defense contract and one for stealing more than $100,000 raised for charity and using it for gambling, vacations and to pay off personal credit cards, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.
According to a news release and court records, James E. Podolske Jr., 59, of Panama City, Fla., was in charge of organizing an awards banquet and golf outing that coincided with the International Association of Fire Chiefs’ annual conferences from 2009 to 2012.
During the months surrounding the conferences, Podolske solicited donations ranging from $100 to $5,000 that were intended for five charities: Toys for Tots, Parkland Foundation Burn Camp, Military Firefighters Heritage Foundation, The First Twenty and IAFC Scholarship Foundation.
Some donors wrote checks directly to the charities; others, including at least one from Wisconsin, wrote them to Podolske. He forwarded checks written to the charities but deposited the others into his personal bank account. Donors gave Podolske checks totaling of more than $164,000. Of that, he kept more than $133,000.
Podolske faces a maximum possible penalty of 25 years in prison and $50,000 in fines when he is sentenced Feb. 27. Under the terms of his plea agreement, he resigned as Fire Chief of the U.S. Air Force effective Oct. 21.
Article Contributed By Gina Barton | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Tribune News Service)