Sunday, June 24, 2018
Public safety

Man accused of impersonating firefighter to get free stuff

ST. PETERSBURG — Authorities aren't sure how Robert Louis Spalla got his hands on an official fire department T-shirt. But they believe the Clearwater man got a lot of use out of it.

Police said Spalla, 22, who has never been a firefighter in Florida, spent six months wearing the T-shirt to get freebies from Pinellas County businesses.

Police, who arrested Spalla Wednesday on charges of impersonating a firefighter, said he got free meals, drinks and gas cards.

The ruse angered officials.

"We don't want the image that firefighters are going around asking for free stuff," said Lt. Joel Granata, a spokesman for St. Petersburg Fire & Rescue. "We're not. We don't do that. We're more professional than that."

It was unclear Wednesday how Spalla got the clothes.

"If he wanted to be a firefighter so bad," Granata said, "he should have just went to school and became one."

Spalla was in the Pinellas County Jail on Wednesday night in lieu of $5,000 bail.

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