Gregory Hitchcock might call it short-term borrowing. Law enforcement officials are calling it embezzlement. Hitchcock, deputy fire chief for the Lake Mishnock Fire Department in the Town of West Greenwich, Rhode Island, was charged on July 16 with embezzling nearly $8,000 from International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Local 4267, where he serves as president. It was his years as union treasurer, however, that is of concern to state investigators.
Hitchcock, 38, a resident of West Greenwich, had been local treasurer until April 2008. In an audit of statements covering December 2003-January 2008, his successor discovered a series of suspicious transfers between bank accounts in the names of Hitchcock and the union. The new treasurer informed the Rhode Island State Police Financial Crimes Unit of the discrepancies, who in turn conducted a six-month probe. The investigation concluded Hitchcock had withdrawn $7,757.11 from the local account and returned $6,339.06, for a net loss of $1,418.05. At various points, the balance was under one dollar. State officials believe the evidence of theft is convincing. “It showed a clear pattern where money was being transferred from Mr. Hitchcock’s account to the union accounts and from the union accounts to Mr. Hitchcock’s accounts,” said Rhode Island State Police Captain David Neil.