Ex-fire chief pleads guilty to embezzlement as ESD 1 funding still in jeopardy
Troy “Mac” Hohenberger, former chief of Denton County Emergency Services District No. 1, pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal charges of stealing pension funds from firefighters and making false statements to the government.
Hohenberger originally pleaded not guilty but changed his plea over four months later.
In the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, the prosecution read aloud the factual basis for Hohenberger’s criminal charges. Hohenberger testified that he did embezzle over $490,000 in funds to make 80 payments to personal credit card bills, take cash advances at casinos and pay for personal business expenses.
When asked if he had made false statements to the U.S. Department of Labor, Hohenberger denied this. U.S. Magistrate Judge Kimberly Priest Johnson reminded Hohenberger that he had already agreed that everything in the factual basis, including the part about him making false statements, was accurate.
Hohenberger initially doubled down on his denial, but later told the judge that yes, he had made false statements.
Upon sentencing, Hohenberger could face 10 years in prison and three years of supervised release. He would be required to pay about $540,000 in restitution and a little over $19,000 to individual firefighters. He would also be required to forfeit any property derived from his criminal conduct.
Johnson permitted Hohenberger to remain released on bond until his sentencing hearing, which had not been set as of Wednesday afternoon.
The emergency services district’s new chief, Ricky Vaughan, was present at the hearing. He called the situation “unfortunate” but said he was there to support the firefighters.
The emergency services district said in a news release that it remains committed to delivering excellent service to the public and it supports the personnel impacted by the situation.
Sam Johnson, president of the Argyle Professional Firefighters Association, told the Denton Record-Chronicle that Hohenberger’s guilty plea was “a long time coming.”
Johnson said Hohenberger’s actions caused the district to suffer substantial damages and it is still dealing with a funding deficit. The district could run out of funds to respond to all 911 calls in less than 90 to 120 days, the district’s Board of Commissioners reported.