Former SMCAS director charged with embezzlement

Nearly two years after retiring as the leader of the Southwestern Michigan Community Ambulance Service, Tim Gray is facing possible prison time for allegedly misappropriating funds while working there.

The 49-year-old Buchanan native was charged last week in Berrien County Court with one count of embezzlement between $50,000 and $100,000 — a felony carrying a maximum penalty of 15 years incarceration.

In a news release, the county prosecutor alleges that Gray misappropriated funds from SMCAS from May 2009 through June 30, 2014.

SMCAS is a non-profit, municipally owned and operated advanced life support ambulance service covering the greater Niles and Buchanan area. It charges a per parcel assessment from residents within its owner municipalities.

According to the prosecutor’s office, the allegations against Gray include:

• Excessive “paid time off” in the amount of $58,537

• Holiday pay and vision reimbursement for which Gray was not entitled in excess of $10,000

• Receiving full salary while on short-term disability in excess of $29,700

Gray was released after posting bond.

He is scheduled to appear in court for a preliminary exam conference April 13.

Brian Scribner, who succeeded Gray as director of SMCAS in July 2014, said he discovered “inconsistencies” in SMCAS’ books in October of 2014.

That information was later submitted to the Michigan State Police, which handled the investigation.

“We have cooperated with the MSP to the best of our abilities,” Scribner said.

When asked what the allegations might do to the image of SMCAS, which relies on the public for funding, Scribner said he does not know the answer to that.

“I do know that I work with very committed people that have basically dedicated their lives to the communities that SMCAS serves. They certainly are deserving of the respect and admiration of their communities and they are not involved in this,” he said. “There are things we need to do to strengthen our financial position over the next few years, but as far as the quality of service this is a committed group of people working very hard to take good care of their community.”

Niles Township Supervisor Jim Stover, whose community is a part owner in SMCAS, said he was surprised to learn of the allegations.

“I’ve known his family and was shocked that there was even the slight thought that Tim would be involved in some wrongdoings,” Stover said. “It is something for the courts to decide.”

City of Niles Administrator Ric Huff said he was disappointed to hear about the allegations against Gray.

“Employees and managers of organizations that receive taxpayer money have a duty to safe guard and appropriately expend these funds,” he said. “I am pleased that once discrepancies were discovered, the SMCAS board of trustees took immediate action by requesting an audit and a law enforcement investigation into the matter. I am confident that if these allegations prove to be substantiated the court will protect the interests of the taxpayers.”

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