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Speedway's Ex-Fire Chief Pleads Guilty To Stealing $58K From Town

Last updated on Tuesday, September 29, 2015

(SPEEDWAY) - Speedway’s former fire chief pleaded guilty Monday to stealing $58,000 from the town.

Mark Watson entered his plea Monday for stealing $58,093 from the town as well as official misconduct - both Class D felonies. There was some discussion in court Monday about reducing the two felony charges to misdemeanors since Watson has no criminal record. However, the judge said because he was at such a high level of public trust - and that his actions were such an egregious violation of that trust - that he deserved to have a felony conviction on his record.

In accordance with the plea agreement filed earlier this month, Watson has paid the full amount in restitution to the Town of Speedway. He has also agreed to pay restitution to the State Board of Accounts for the costs associated with an audit conducted by the agency.

Watson will serve two years probation, as well as 120 hours of public service. He will not serve jail time.

More than half a dozen firefighters and the current chief attended the hearing to hear the guilty plea for themselves. After the hearing, Watson addressed town residents directly.

"They're the greatest people in the world and I violated their trust and they deserve better. I'm deeply sorry and I have sacrificed greatly to repay them as soon as possible because they deserve it," Watson said, refusing to answer questions.

Those "sacrifices" include taking out a home equity loan and borrowing from his children's college savings funds, according to Watson's attorney.

Watson stole the money over the course of 4 years, buying a gun, baton, holster, 46 inch TV, two sets of tires, snow blowers, a grill, home improvement items, lawn and garden items, a GPS device and several items of clothing, among other things. All of it was paid for with town funds, donations and even new firefighter recruit test fees.

Watson was the town's fire chief from June 2010 until his resignation on October 27, 2014. The charges are a result of an investigation by the Indiana State Police, Indiana State Board of Accounts and the Marion County Prosecutor's Office.

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