Fire official in Ontario County accused of stealing $20K to cover gambling debt

Authorities say a 53-year-old Manchester resident, who served as the treasurer of an Ontario County fire company is accused of stealing more than $20,000 to cover gambling expenses at casinos in New York and Las Vegas.

Wendy Wharton, 53, of Manchester was arrested on Friday and charged with third-degree grand larceny.

The charge stems from an audit and investigation by the State Comptroller’s Office, who was assisted by the Ontario County Sheriff’s Office. Authorities say she used the fire company’s credit card and debit cards to obtain cash advances and withdraw funds.

“This fire official bet she wouldn’t be caught as she gambled away public money and violated the trust of her community,” DiNapoli said in a statement. 

Ontario County Sheriff Phil Povero lauded the Shortsville Fire Department for finding that the funds were missing and alerting law enforcement in a statement. “”Having their investigators and auditors assist the Ontario County Sheriff’s Office investigators resulted in a more thorough and timely investigation for submission to the district attorney’s office,” Povero said. 

Ontario County District Attorney James Ritts will be handling the case. Wharton was arraigned on Friday and set to appear in Canandaigua City Court on Wednesday.

Ritts added, “We will take any allegations of larceny from first responders and volunteer fire departments very seriously. We will continue to aggressively investigate these cases to bring justice to those who take money from those volunteer firefighters.”  

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