Disloyal firefighter stole money through elaborate scheme
A VOLUNTEER firefighter betrayed his brigade when he exploited the organisation for his own financial gain.
A courtroom heard Bradley Wilhelm Arndt stole two donation tins from the River Heads Rural Fire Brigade and placed them into shops.
He would regularly go to empty the tins while wearing firefighter gear, keeping the money for himself.
The 54-year-old man pleaded guilty in Hervey Bay Magistrates Court on Thursday to fraud and stealing.
Police prosecutor Donna Sperling said the tins, designed to raise money for the rural fire group, went missing during an Australia Day event.
Their location remained a mystery until September when an employee of one of the stores that Arndt targeted contacted the brigade to let them know cash had been collected.
"An investigation commenced, as they were unaware that they had a donation tin (there)," Sgt Sperling said.
Sgt Sperling said Arndt then went to a police station and admitted to the fraud and stealing crimes.
"He could not provide police the total (value) of the tins," she said.
A witness from one of the targeted stores told police that Arndt dressed in a fire brigade uniform when coming to collect donations.
Magistrate Stephen Guttridge said Arndt's crimes weren't just harmful to the fire brigade, but to other groups which rely on the generosity of the public.
"Not only did he take the money, but it would make other people think twice before donating," Mr Guttridge said.
"It has an impact on other charities."
Defence lawyer Hamish Isles said Arndt, who receives disability support, was not a volunteer with the brigade any more.
"He understands that it was a breach of trust," Mr Isles said.
The court heard the fire brigade received none of the money that was donated in that time.
Arndt was fined $1200, and a conviction was recorded.
Despite pleading guilty only minutes earlier, when Arndt spoke to the Chronicle outside court he maintained he was innocent.
"I just pleaded guilty because it's a waste of taxpayers' money," Arndt said.
"I know of my own mind, I didn't do it.
"It's just that this has taken a lot of stress out of me."