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Fire captain suspected of embezzling $63,000

A Rancho Adobe Fire Captain was accused of embezzling more than $63,000 from the fire protection district's union.

Michael Bechtold, 39, was arrested early Wednesday on suspicion of forging and cashing checks as treasurer of the Rancho Adobe Protection District's union account, Sonoma County sheriff's officials said.

The Rohnert Park resident allegedly used the funds to pay for housing, season tickets to Sharks hockey games and a trip to Disneyland.

Bechtold serves as the department's fire marshal and has worked for the Rancho Adobe Fire Protection District for at least 15 years, Fire Chief Frank Treanor said.

"I'm saddened," said Treanor, reached by phone Thursday. "You work with these people and you see the great work that they do."

Prosecutors Friday are expected to charge Bechtold with embezzlement, grand theft, forgery and violating the terms of his probation from a prior misdemeanor domestic violence conviction. He's being held without bail.

Bechtold's peers became suspicious after the Rohnert Park man delayed providing financial audits to the association board, Sheriff's Lt. Dennis O'Leary said.

"He began stalling and not showing up for meetings," O'Leary said.

Bechtold eventually furnished a financial report that appeared fraudulent, prompting board members to check the books, said O'Leary. The account had been nearly drained, he said.

They alerted the Sheriff's Office on Monday, O'Leary said.

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