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Ex-official accused of embezzling $22,000

Volunteer firefighters raise cash to support the paid ones. They buy things like cooling fans and energy bars to freshen them during exhausting calls. One day the people of the West Pasco Volunteer Fire Department realized their funds were evaporating. Now investigators say they've caught the thief: the former treasurer.

Matthew Biasotti is accused of embezzling more than $22,000 by writing 55 checks to himself between April and October. Sheriff's spokesman Doug Tobin said Biasotti tried to conceal the thefts by writing false information on the checks' memo lines.

Biasotti used to keep the books for the department, which has its own charter but is governed by Pasco County Fire Rescue. Tobin said Biasotti's downfall began after he was elected vice president of the employee association and a new treasurer found inconsistencies in the ledger.

At a board meeting Oct. 25, colleagues confronted him about misappropriation of funds, PCFR Battalion Chief Mike Ciccarello said. Biasotti turned in his badge and uniform.

The man who reported the thefts to the sheriff is fund president Anthony Biasotti, who is Biasotti's brother. He declined to comment.

Members of the Pasco County Sheriff's Office Economic Crimes Unit arrested Biasotti, 32, of Port Richey on Thursday after he turned himself in. He is charged with grand theft and scheme to defraud.

He was held at the Land O'Lakes jail in lieu of $5,000 bail.

"It's a smear to all of us," Ciccarello said.

Thomas Lake can be reached at tlake@sptimes.com or 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6245.

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