HAMBURG, Pa. - Just one day before celebrating our country's independence, there was heartbreak for veterans in Berks County.
Thousands of dollars went missing from the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 216 at 1 S. Fourth St. in Hamburg, and officials said it was stolen by the group's treasurer, who is a veteran himself.
"We were devastated. We put our trust in this guy, a fellow vet," said Dennis Carter, post commander.
Almost 200 post were devastated when they found out their treasurer and fellow veteran, Richard Spatz, allegedly stole $14,000 from them.
"We were dumfounded. This was an individual who we trusted, not just myself, but the whole staff," said Carter.
Spatz, 51, used the VFW's ATM card to withdraw $14,392 from July 2012 through May 2013 at the M&T Bank in Hamburg, according to police records.
Police allege he also used the post's credit card to rent a small chipper for his tree service business.
Carter said he started noticing irregularities about six months into Spatz's term as treasurer.
"We did not think a whole lot of it at first, but then as time went on, we started investigating it more. The more we started to dig, the more we found out it was as bad as it is," said Carter.
Unfortunately, Carter said they are not the first to have this happen.
In May, former police officer John Masciotti was sentenced for stealing $92,000 from the Fraternal Order of Police Berks Log 71 and its social club, The Pig Pen, in Muhlenberg Township.
Carter hopes other organizations can learn from their mistakes.
"Question everything, checks and balances the whole way down the line," said Carter.
The total sum of money the post lost was $14,633.36, money it planned on using to repair its historic building in downtown Hamburg.
Post 216 has since established more oversight to prevent this from happening again.
Spatz is facing charges including theft and receiving stolen property. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for Mon., July 7 at 9 a.m.
Allentown, PA 18102