The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


May 6, 2014

Two charges dismissed in Rick Sinko case, but another remains

SHAMOKIN — Two felony charges against a former firefighter accused of stealing more than $2,000 from Rescue Hose Fire Company were dropped after a two-hour preliminary hearing in front of Shamokin Magistrate District Judge John Gembic III Tuesday morning.

Although charges of theft by unlawful taking and receiving stolen property were dismissed, Rick Sinko, 47, of Northumberland, will still have to answer in the Northumberland County Court of Common Pleas to a felony charge of access device fraud and a misdemeanor charge of misapplication of entrusted property and property of government or financial institution.

“We are pleased the judge dismissed half the charges,” said attorney Timothy Bowers, who is representing Sinko with attorney Kymberley Best. “We are confident that the courts will dismiss the other half when we file a writ of habeas corpus.”

Sinko is now scheduled to appear in county court at 9:15 a.m. July 11 for a pre-trial conference.

Company officials appear befuddled

Sinko, who had served as a volunteer firefighter for more than three decades, is accused of pilfering money and making authorized purchases from the fire company, where Sinko served as treasurer.

The total amount missing is $2,308.37, police said.

However, President Stanley Wirth and trustee Ronald Underkoffler, who appeared befuddled during their testimonies, went through a stack of invoices that were allegedly unaccounted for.

After nearly 20 minutes each, both men either could not definitively say whether the purchases had been used for the building, or they admitted they could account for some of the purchases.

“The testimony indicated that they (Wirth and Underkoffler) could not identify a single item my client has taken,” Bowers said in his closing statements.

No evidence was presented that supported any of the charges, Bowers said.

“My client was clearly entrusted with property, but no testimony today shows that he used it for anything other than the fire company,” Bowers said.

Bennick testifies

City Patrolman Stephen Bennick testified that he had been informed by the Rescue board of trustees that they were suspicious of Sinko.

City police began investigating Sinko, who was banned for life from the Rescue Hose Fire Company for “improper behavior,” in 2012.

The accusations include charging merchandise not authorized by the fire company from Cole’s Hardware, Your Building Centers and Moyer Electric Supply Co. in 2011; writing two checks worth $200 to his personal business R&C Sinko in 2012; and withdrawing $1,000 from the firehouse account out of a Sunbury bank.

Bennick testified that Sinko was authorized to make purchases and withdraw money for the fire company, but was not authorized to do so for his own personal gain.

The officer said he did not read the bi-laws or review policies on how purchases and money are handled at Rescue.

Underkoffler testified that any purchases under $300 does not need the approval of the trustee board, but anything over that amount would have to be voted on at a meeting.

He did not know whether receipts under $300 are submitted to the board.

Underkoffler and Wirth said they could not say for certain whether the purchases were not approved during meetings nor could they say for certain whether they were not used for the fire house.

In addressing Underkoffler, Bowers said, “You originally said three to four of these bills you didn’t know about. That number has grown today.”

Following Gembic’s order, Sinko referred all questions to his attorneys.

Assistant district attorney Michael Toomey declined comment.

Apfelbaum recused himself

Gembic was appointed the judge of the case after Sunbury District Judge Ben Apfelbaum recused himself following the March 6 arraignment.

At that court proceeding, Apfelbaum called Sinko a “pillar of the community” and said he didn’t want to bring any more shame to the former Sunbury resident.

Sinko helped the city in 2011 when it needed assistance in raising money for sections of new fire hoses.

Apfelbaum released Sinko then on his own recognizance

Hummel waived

Additionally, Sinko’s brother, Michael Hummel, 42, of Sunbury, who is accused of charging supplies at Cole’s Hardware on the fire company’s account, waived his right to a preliminary hearing in front of Gembic on April 8.

He is scheduled for a formal arraignment at 9 a.m. Monday, according to court documents.

Hummel has already made restitution, according to Bennick.

Police said Hummel admitted in June 2012 that he stole about $1,000 in cash from the fire company from September 2011 until June 2012. Hummel told police he would take the cash from the fire company safe, small games of chance or the register, then he would fail to ring up customers, court documents said.

Hummel is charged with three misdemeanor charges of unlawful taking, receiving stolen property and misapplication of entrusted property and property of government or financial institutions.

Hummel was also released on his own recognizance.

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