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03-08-2005, 01:13 PM
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5 more arrested in theft from Muskego fire scene
Firefighters among those accused of stealing from warehouse
Posted: March 7, 2005

Muskego - Five more people, including three firefighters, were arrested over the weekend on suspicion of theft of pool cues, billiard balls and other items from a warehouse fire in December.

The five people arrested since Friday join four other firefighters arrested last week, also on suspicion of misdemeanor theft from the fire scene.

Hales Corners firefighters Andrew Owsiany, 27, and Brett R. Fortkamp, 22, were arrested and are accused of taking billiard balls, Muskego police Capt. Paul Geiszler said.

Richard A. Faust, 51, the third Muskego firefighter arrested, is accused of taking a fire extinguisher from the scene that later exploded in his vehicle, Geiszler said.

Stephen J. Maggi, 34, a driver for Taz Trucking of Wind Lake, is accused of taking more than $400 in pool cues and leather cue cases, Detective Chad Dornbach said.

Great Lakes Dart Distributors leased the building at S84-W19093 Enterprise Drive from Lawrence W. Katz, 48, of Mequon for storage of its recreational equipment, including billiards and air hockey tables

Katz himself is accused of stealing an unknown amount of items, Dornbach said.

All five men were booked and released. Faust declined to comment. Katz, Maggi, Owsiany and Fortkamp could not be reached for comment.

Witnesses saw Katz and Maggi put items in their vehicles from a semitrailer truck parked near the warehouse Dec. 18, three days after the fire, Geiszler said.

"Some of the items were not damaged, and even if they were, they were certainly not worthless," Geiszler said. "If you don't own it, you don't take it."

All of the undamaged items, including some of those taken by some firefighters, were stolen from the trailer, he said. Great Lakes Dart Distributors was still doing an inventory Monday, Geiszler said.

The company lost $1 million in recreational equipment in the fire, and the building was valued at $1 million.

Some items also were stolen as soon as the day after the fire, he said.

"It was still a crime scene," Geiszler said, since the cause of the fire was not determined.

Among the men arrested last week were Big Bend/Vernon Deputy Chief Todd Bluhm, 35, and full-time firefighter Jay Richards, 27. They were first accused of taking charred billiard balls, but later in the investigation, police learned they also took a $40 undamaged dart board carrying case.

The men gave the case to their chief to keep in the department, Geiszler said. The chief was unaware the case was stolen.

Both men are on paid suspension pending the outcome of the investigation, Big Bend/Vernon Fire Chief Phil Buchholtz said Monday. An internal department review will follow the police investigation, he said.

Buchholtz said he was shocked by the arrests and upset, calling the charges "drastic." He believes his firefighters only took damaged items.

"We don't do it all the time," he said, of taking items from fire scenes.

While he's concerned there may be a loss of public trust as a result of the actions, Buchholtz said, "The public has to realize as well, the items that were taken were going in the garbage anyway."

The fire department uses plastic containers and lamps to demonstrate fire damage in training and in fire prevention presentations in the area, he said.

Two other firefighters arrested last week were from the Muskego volunteer fire department. Adam Miller, 23, and Andrew Peterson, 22, each are accused of stealing a $12 pool cue, Geiszler said. Both lost their jobs.

Muskego Fire Chief Edwin Schaefer said Monday that he was unaware of the arrest of a third firefighter, so no action has been taken.

The department does not have a written policy on taking items from a fire scene, Schaefer said. He is going to propose a countywide protocol on fire scene etiquette to the Waukesha County Fire Chiefs Association, he said.

"We are going to take a strong, hard stance to ensure that all firefighters understand that this is not tolerated in our county," Schaefer said. "Hopefully, through education, this will never happen again."

Hales Corners Fire Chief David Bialk did not return calls seeking comment Monday.

More than 200 firefighters responded to the fire: New Berlin, Tess Corners, the Town of Brookfield and Muskego in Waukesha County; the Town of Raymond in Racine County; and Hales Corners, Greendale and Franklin in Milwaukee County.

Waukesha County District Attorney Paul Bucher said Monday he is reviewing the reports.


Firefighters arrested in Muskego theft case
They responded in December to warehouse blaze
Posted: March 4, 2005

Muskego - Three firefighters and a deputy fire chief have been arrested 11 weeks after they responded to a December fire that consumed a billiards and air hockey warehouse, according to records Muskego police released Friday.

All four men were booked on suspicion of misdemeanor theft and released. No foul play is suspected in the cause of the fire.

The arrested include half the paid staff of the Big Bend/Vernon Fire Department and two men who have been fired from the Muskego Volunteer Fire Department.

Muskego police would not release details of the arrests, which took place Tuesday and Thursday. Sgt. John Mesich said they date to a police investigation into thefts connected to a Dec. 16 warehouse fire at the Muskego Industrial Park.

The men arrested were Todd Bluhm, the deputy chief of the Big Bend/Vernon department; Jay Richards, a Big Bend/Vernon firefighter and paramedic; and Adam Miller and Andrew Peterson, both Muskego firefighters who lost their jobs during the investigation.

Bluhm, 35, of the Town of Waterford, and Richards, 27, of Muskego, have not yet been disciplined but probably will be suspended, said Phil Buchholtz, the Big Bend/Vernon fire chief. Bluhm and Richards represent two of the department's four employees.

Bluhm joined the Big Bend/Vernon department in August 2000. Richards has been with the department since March 2002.

The Muskego firefighters arrested were asked to leave the department within two weeks of the fire, Muskego Fire Chief Edwin Schaefer said Friday.

"We had an internal investigation over some things here," Schaefer said Friday. "We thought it was contained to a simple piece of equipment. We had no idea that it was ever going to escalate to this."

Schaefer declined to say what the piece of equipment was or give any other details on the incident.

"We've been deeply traumatized by this, and we're trying to cooperate with the Police Department," he said. "I don't want to say anything that's going to impede their investigation at this point."

Reached on his cell phone, Peterson, 22, of Muskego, hung up without answering questions. Miller, 23, of Muskego, could not be reached for comment. Schaefer said he could not say how long the two had been with the department.

Bluhm and Richards did not return phone calls Friday.

No one was injured in the blaze, which destroyed the Great Lakes Dart Distributors warehouse at S84-W19093 Enterprise Drive. Nearly 200 firefighters from New Berlin, Tess Corners, Hales Corners, Greendale, Franklin and the Towns of Brookfield and Raymond joined the Muskego Volunteer Fire Department to subdue the blaze.

The fire likely began after a strong wind smashed a sodium-vapor light bulb that then ignited cardboard, Muskego Police Chief John Johnson said in December. The building was a total loss, as was the $1 million of recreational equipment inside of it.

03-08-2005, 02:24 PM
It just shows that people will not tolerate someone stealing their cues.

With all those video cameras around now-a-days I thought firemen and policemen had changed their ways. Technology made an honest man out of me - and that was prior to 1994.