Former head of ambulance service charged with embezzlement

Timothy Gray, 49, faces a charge of embezzlement for misappropriating funds by giving himself excessive paid time off and receiving a full salary while on short-term disability

South Bend Tribune

NILES, Ind. — The former director of the Southwestern Michigan Community Ambulance Service in Niles has been charged with embezzlement.

According to a statement from the Berrien County Prosecutor's Office, Timothy Gray, 49, faces a charge of embezzlement $50,000 to $100,000, a 15-year felony.

Prosecutors allege Gray misappropriated more than $98,000 during his tenure as executive director of the ambulance service from May 2009 through June 30, 2014.

In the statement, prosecutors said the misappropriations include excessive "paid time off" of $58,537; holiday pay and vision reimbursement he was not entitled to receive of more than $10,000; and receiving full salary while on short-term disability of more than $29,700. The misappropriations were discovered by Gray's successor, Brian Scribner, following Gray's 2014 retirement.

Michigan State Police handled the investigation. Gray was arraigned on the charges last week and posted 10 percent of a $10,000 bond.

SMCAS is operated by the cities of Buchanan and Niles, along with the townships of Buchanan, Niles and Bertrand, and property owners in those jurisdictions pay a tax that covers about 25 percent of the service's annual operating expenses. The remainder of the service's more than $2 million annual budget is funded by user fees. SMCAS also extends service to Milton and Pokagon townships, which have no ownership, but instead contract for service.

Concerns about SMCAS' budget were raised in the months surrounding Gray's departure from leading the ambulance service. But in the weeks before he stepped down, Gray reported that SMCAS had eliminated about $700,000 in debt it had piled up over nearly a decade and was was operating in the black. He blamed the debt on write-offs that snowballed after the downturn in the economy.

Six months after his departure, the cities of Niles and Buchanan stepped in and advance $40,000 and $30,000, respectively, to keep the service operating through January 2015 when the new property tax levy supporting the operations until tax revenue.

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