CVP EXCLUSIVE: “I made a mistake. I made a big mistake,” fire inspector James Leclercq of Dumont told CLIFFVIEW PILOT tonight after he was arrested by Mahwah police in Englewood on charges of pocketing more than $6,000 from the Bergen County Fire Prevention & Protection Association while serving as its treasurer.
“I violated the trust of the members of the Bergen County Fire Prevention Association. I violated the trust of people I was friends with,” said Leclercq, 54, a longtime volunteer firefighter who works as a fire inspector in Cresskill and Englewood.
“I intend to repay the money,” he told CLIFFVIEW PILOT after a Mahwah Municipal Court judge released him without bail early Thursday evening.
He and his attorney are headed to the Bergen County courthouse in Hackensack “so I can do what I have to do,” Leclercq said.
Meanwhile, an investigation into the agency’s funds was continuing.
Detective Sgt. Kevin Hebert began looking into the matter after the association president was alerted to bounced checks and incomplete payments.
Mahwah Police Chief James Batelli said the checks were written in various denominations from $20 to $500.
“As donations came in, LeClercq would make partial payments to try and cover some of the Association expenses, but eventually vendors started to complain about non-payment,” Batelli said.
Sources with direct knowledge of the situation told CLIFFVIEW PILOT that one of the debtors was the Venetian Restaurant in Garfield, where the association has held events.
“We’re probably not going to be able to go back there,” one said.
The Mahwah-based association, a collection of active and retired firefighters, promotes fire safety and prevention through talks, demonstrations and materials. It also serves as a hub for the exchange of professional information among its members and the public, and the state Division of Fire Safety and Fire Commission.
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