Home News Jackson County Fire Chief Pleads Guilty to Embezzling $200,000 from Volunteer Department

Jackson County Fire Chief Pleads Guilty to Embezzling $200,000 from Volunteer Department


COLUMBUS, Ohio – Johnny Baker, the chief of the Coalton volunteer fire department, admitted guilt in U.S. District Court today for misappropriating over $200,000 in fire department funds for personal use.

Baker, 37, hailing from Wellston, Ohio, entered a plea of guilty to one count of mail fraud, acknowledging his involvement in the embezzlement scheme. Court proceedings revealed that Baker utilized fire department funds to finance a lavish lifestyle, which included having personal items shipped to his residence via UPS.

With a tenure dating back to 2009, Baker served in various capacities within the volunteer fire department, including roles such as secretary/treasurer, assistant fire chief, and ultimately, fire chief as of January 2023. Throughout his time in these positions, Baker held sole responsibility for managing the department’s finances.

According to court documents, Baker abused his authority by charging personal expenses to a fire department credit card between 2020 and 2023. These expenses ranged from vacations and entertainment to sports tickets, firearms, electronics, and clothing. Notably, Baker funded his purchases by utilizing fire department funds, which he raised through a local pull-tab gaming system initially intended as a fundraiser. Local businesses participated in selling pull tabs, with proceeds directed to Baker.

In his plea agreement, Baker has committed to reimbursing approximately $226,000 in restitution to the fire department.

Mail fraud, the charge Baker faces, carries a maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment under federal law. The Court will determine Baker’s sentencing at a later date, taking into account advisory sentencing guidelines and other relevant factors.

Baker’s admission of guilt highlights the serious consequences of financial misconduct, particularly within essential community organizations like volunteer fire departments. As the legal process unfolds, the case underscores the importance of transparency and accountability in managing public funds.