SEARSPORT  — Gina Philbrick, 43, of Monroe was charged Thursday, June 30, with theft by unauthorized taking or transfer from the Barney Hose Company. The company raises funds to support the Searsport Fire Department and its members, according to Town Manager James Gillway.

Searsport Fire Department Chief Andrew Webster, Philbrick’s fiancé, was summoned June 30 for receiving stolen Barney Hose Company property.

Philbrick is accused of writing checks that she cashed into her USAA bank account while she was treasurer of the organization, according to the police affidavit. She had served as the organization’s treasurer since January 2020, according to the court document.

The Searsport Police Department’s investigation has uncovered at least $11,600 in allegedly stolen funds, according to Police Chief Todd Boisvert. The department is still investigating the extent of the theft, but as of July 1 was not considering more charges.

Searsport Police Officer James Greeley started investigating the theft in May after Barney Hose member Hoard Wells brought it to the officer’s attention that there was significantly less money in the organization’s bank account than there should have been, according to the affidavit.

Organization bylaws dictate that any money withdrawn in excess of $100 needs to be voted on, according to the affidavit. The alleged theft took place from January 2021 to March 2022, according to the court document.

Bangor Savings Bank, which holds the organization’s account, looked into the missing funds and asked four members of the organization, including Philbrick, to verify signatures, according to the affidavit.

When the bank asked Philbrick to verify her signature, she said she accidentally wrote the checks and was intending to use her own Bangor Savings Bank checks at the time, according to the affidavit. Barney Hose member James Morton told her to return funds from one of the checks she cashed back into the organization’s account, according to the affidavit.

Philbrick told Morton that to return the funds she would have to take a second job, according to the affidavit. In an interview with Greeley, Philbrick told him that she scribbled her signature in an effort to disguise her identity, according to the affidavit. She admitted to writing seven checks, the court document said.

Philbrick told The Republican Journal July 1 that she “accidentally wrote the checks.” She said she had four checkbooks she was handling at the time and did not realize that she was depositing money from the Barney Hose account into her own account until the organization’s account was audited.  She has two personal checking accounts that she moves money between using checks, she said.

A U.S. Army veteran who served 18 months in Iraq from 2003 to 2005, she said she developed PTSD from her service and has anxiety and depression. During moments of stress, she said, she cannot comprehend everything she is doing. At the time of the alleged thefts, she had two checkbooks that looked exactly alike, she said.

“I had grabbed the checkbook, wrote out a check, deposited where I needed to deposit it and it just happened to be the wrong checkbook,” she said.

She said she tried paying “restitution” to the organization but was told not to. “I have tried to start paying restitution to the company but I was told that I’m not allowed because that would be tampering with the witness,” she said.

She said Webster “had no knowledge of this.”

Webster has been suspended from the department since at least June 10 pending the outcome of the theft investigation, Gillway said. He remains on suspension. The Select Board will go into executive session July 5 during a public meeting regarding the suspension.

Webster told The Republican Journal June 28 that the investigation had nothing to do with him. “It does but it doesn’t,” he said. He said he expected to be reinstated as chief after the investigation was complete. On July 1 he declined to comment on the case.

Philbrick turned herself in to the Waldo County Jail and was released on $10,000 unsecured bail, according to Boisvert. Representatives from the Barney Hose Company did not respond for comment before publication.

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