Former Beaver Chief Sentenced To Prison For Mail Fraud

 

UPDATE (10/17/2018) BECKLEY, WV (WOAY) – A former Beaver Fire Chief has been sentenced to prison for mail fraud.

Judge Irene Berger sentenced Michael Cowger to 8 months in prison and three years of supervised release.

Cowger agreed to pay restitution in the following amounts: $15,638.28 to the City of Beckley; $5,099.64 to West Virginia University; and $204.85 to the Beaver Volunteer Fire Department.

______________________________________

UPDATE (7/11/2018) – BECKLEY, WV – A Beaver firefighter pled guilty today to committing mail fraud, announced United States Attorney Mike Stuart.  Michael Cowger, 50, admitted that he fraudulently received over $20,000 from the City of Beckley, West Virginia University, and Beaver Volunteer Fire Department.  Stuart commended the investigative efforts of the West Virginia Commission on Special Investigations and the Beckley Police Department.

“First responders – firefighters, policeman and others – are role models and heroes in our communities,” said United States Attorney Mike Stuart.  “It is disheartening when someone who should be a role model is responsible for fraud and deceit,” said United States Attorney Mike Stuart. “Although the resulting losses may seem minimal to some,  no level of fraud is insignificant when committed by an individual in a position of trust.”

Cowger served as a firefighter at the Beckley Fire Department, worked as a part-time instructor for West Virginia University’s College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, and volunteered at the Beaver Fire Department, where he held the position of Fire Chief.   Cowger admitted that he submitted reimbursement requests for supplies, travel, and training expenses to those entities, when he knew he had already sought reimbursements  for the same expenses or another entity had already paid the expenses.  For example,  Cowger used his West Virginia University Purchasing Card (“P-Card”), a credit card that WVU paid directly, to purchase gas and rent a vehicle for certain trainings, yet also requested mileage from the City of Beckley for those same trainings, falsely indicating that he used his personal vehicle for the same travel, when in fact he had used a vehicle rented via the P-Card. Cowger also admitted that to complete his scheme, at times he created fictitious and duplicate receipts on his computer. He also admitted that he manipulated his hotel and training reservations and payments at times to ensure that he received two receipts with two different credit card numbers for the same events to conceal from the City of Beckley that he had used a WVU P-Card to pay for the events.

Cowger agreed to pay restitution in the following amounts: $15,638.28 to the City of Beckley; $5,099.64 to West Virginia University; and $204.85 to the Beaver Volunteer Fire Department.

Cowger faces up to 20 years in federal prison when he is sentenced on September 17, 2018.

Assistant United States Attorney Meredith George Thomas is in charge of the prosecution. United States District Judge Irene C. Burger presided over the hearing.

______________________________________

UPDATE 6/4/18 – BEAVER, WV (WOAY) – Effective June 1, 2018, Michael Cowger has stepped down as Chief of the Beaver Volunteer Fire Department.

Jason Redden has been appointed as interim Fire Chief until the process to select a new Chief is complete.

______________________________________

BEAVER, WV (WOAY) – A Beaver Fire Chief is facing mail fraud charges after he requested reimbursements from The City of Beckley, West Virginia University, and the Beaver Volunteer Fire Department for travel and training expenses and supplies that he falsely represented had not been paid, when in fact, he had already been paid.

Federal Court filings show, Michael Cowger, also known as “Moose”, worked for several employers, The Beckley Fire Department, The City of Beckley, a part-time instructor for WVU, and Fire Chief for the Beaver Volunteer Fire Department.

Cowger carried out his scheme to defraud by submitting requests for reimbursements for certain lodging, travel, training, and supplies to the City of Beckley, after those costs were paid by his WVU P-Card and a Beaver Volunteer Fire Department credit card.

Cowger also submitted per diem requests to WVU for meals while he traveled on WVU business, yet also requested direct reimbursements from the City of Beckley for the same meals.  Cowger used his WVU P-Card to purchase gas and rent vehicles, yet requested mileage from the City of Beckley, falsely indicating that he used his personal vehicle for the same travel.

At other times, he would use his personal credit card to pay for expenses, then submitted requests for reimbursements to multiple entities  for the same expenses, knowing he would be reimbursed by all entities.

At times, to disguise his scheme, Cowger used his computer to create fictitious and duplicate receipts.

Cowger received more than 20,000 dollars to which he was not entitled.

Filings show the defraud scheme started around April 1, 2011 and went on until around August 18, 2017.

Sponsored Content
Tyler Barker is currently the News Director and Digital Content Manager for WOAY-TV. He was promoted to this job in Mid-November. He still will fill in on weather from time to time. You can follow Tyler on Facebook and Twitter @wxtylerb. Have any news tips or weather questions? Email him at tbarker@woay.com