Sunday, June 16, 2024

Former Argyle fire chief pleads guilty to federal charges

In U.S. District Court on Wednesday, former Argyle Fire Chief Mac Hohenberger pleaded guilty to federal charges of embezzlement of funds from the fire district.

Hohenberger, who had been with the Argyle Fire District (now Denton County ESD No. 1) for 30 years, was indicted on 13 counts by a federal grand jury and arrested by the FBI in November 2022. Hohenberger was accused of taking money from the operating account of the fire district (which received federal funds in the form of Medicare reimbursements) and used over $490,000 of those funds to pay personal credit card bills, including in part cash advances at casinos, payments related to a family member’s business in Hawaii and other personal uses, according to the indictment.

“Throughout the last six months, the emergency services provided by the firefighters, paramedics and emergency medical technicians of the Denton County ESD No. 1 remains steadfast as they continue to deliver excellent service to the citizens of our community,” the ESD said in a statement. “The Denton County ESD No. 1 is committed to supporting the personnel impacted by these allegations as the federal court administers this case and subsequent plea.”

Hohenberger is also alleged to have failed to fund firefighter retirement accounts in the time required by federal regulations and thus embezzled or stole the funds, and that he made false statements related to the firefighter retirement plan on a form submitted to the Department of Labor.

After the court hearing, Hohenberger remains out on bail and will be sentenced at a later date. Hohenberger, 64, faces up to 10 years in federal prison.

“We are pleased he pleaded guilty,” said Sam Johnson, president of the Argyle Professional Fire Fighters Association. “We hope the court recognizes the damages that the department has sustained and the hurt the members have experienced, and that they give no favor or leniency in sentencing.”

In a statement, Johnson called the last six months a “difficult and dark chapter for Argyle and its professional firefighters.”

“While we are very thankful to the FBI and the U.S. criminal justice system, the damage from Hohenberger’s theft has left our department and public safety in jeopardy.”

Johnson said that as a result of a mismanaged budget by the ESD’s previous board, the fire district has a deficit of $1.5 million, and could run out of payroll funding by August or September without financial support from local, county and/or state governments.

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

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