Friday, December 1, 2023

FBI arrests longtime Argyle fire chief, searches department offices

The Federal Bureau of Investigation on Thursday arrested Mac Hohenberger, the longtime fire chief of Denton County Emergency Services District No. 1 (formerly the Argyle Fire District), and searched the ESD’s offices.

Mac Hohenberger
Fire Chief, ESD #1

An FBI spokesperson confirmed Thursday the search and arrest, which took place at DFW Airport, but declined to comment any further because the case remains sealed. The charges against Hohenberger have not been made public, as of Thursday evening, but WFAA reported that Hohenberger allegedly stole money from the fire department’s pension fund.

Hohenberger first joined the Argyle Fire District about 30 years ago and was planning to retire at the end of this year.

In a statement, the ESD’s spokesperson did not comment on the investigation or arrest, but did say that the ESD “remains dedicated to ensuring transparency to personnel and the community during this process and will continue to work cooperatively with the FBI while all inquiries are addressed.” Emergency services remain unaffected.

A former Argyle Fire District employee, Trey Ring, filed a lawsuit against the district and Hohenberger a year ago, after he was fired “after asking too many questions about the 401(k),” his attorney, Eric Roberson said Thursday.

“His career was going great, but it turned south for what we believe to be pre-textual reasons,” Roberson said.

Roberson said that Hohenberger admitted to him that he hadn’t made pension payments on time, and claimed it was due to delays related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Roberson said he currently has “no evidence that the chief was pocketing money, I’ve just asked for permission” to investigate that.

“We wonder if the money went somewhere it shouldn’t have,” Roberson said. “I don’t know, but I want to be able to ask questions about it.”

Ring — who worked for the district from 2017 to March 2020 — is seeking compensation for his lost wages from when he was fired until he was able to find a new job of the same or more pay, as well as the appointment of an independent auditor to look into the district’s finances. They are also seeking approval for a class action lawsuit on behalf of all the district employees who may not have received all their due payments.

On Thursday evening, the Argyle Professional Fire Fighters Association released a statement in support of the investigation into the district, calling the search and arrest a “public crisis.”

“For more than a year, we have strongly supported an independent investigation of allegations that Argyle firefighter retirement contributions were mismanaged or are missing due to misconduct by members of the fire department administration,” the statement says. “Make no mistake, public servants have been personally harmed by these actions and we hope for a swift and fair investigation, and carriage of justice … we look forward to finding answers to the troubling questions raised by this matter.”

Mark Smith
Mark Smith
Mark Smith is the Digital Editor of The Cross Timbers Gazette.

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