Former Tichigan fire chief accused of misappropriating more than $20K reaches plea deal

Todd Bluhm

TICHIGAN — A Mukwonago man, former chief of the Tichigan Volunteer Fire Department, has reached a plea deal in a case in which he was accused of misappropriating more than $20,000 in fire department funds — using the money for personal gain.

Todd Bluhm, 48, on Tuesday, March 20 pleaded no contest to three misdemeanor counts of theft-business setting, less than $2,500.

A felony identify theft charge was dismissed as a result of the plea deal.

A criminal complaint filed in this case indicates it was back in June of 2014 when Racine County sheriff’s investigators were looking into allegations of long-term misappropriation of Town of Waterford funds by Bluhm — who was the chief of the Tichigan Volunteer Fire Department.

It was reported by “several persons with access to financial (fire department) records” that Bluhm was using fire department funds for personal use.

In December 2014, a forensic audit was authorized. The audit began in January 2015, and was completed in May.

Tichigan Volunteer Fire Department

Tichigan Volunteer Fire Department

In early May 2015, the complaint indicates an investigator met with the forensic auditor, and learned of an “extensive list” of fraudulent transactions made by Bluhm.

In July 2015, Bluhm admitted to the following instances of misappropriation, according to the complaint:

  • Aug. 13, 2013: $6,347.75 paid to Lois Tire Shop
  • Sept. 10, 2013: $2,830.58 paid to Lois Tire Shop
  • Feb. 18, 2014: $1,734.24 paid to Lois Tire Shop
  • July 29, 2014: $713.26 paid to Lois Tire Shop
  • Aug. 20, 2014: $568.65 paid to Lois Tire Shop

The complaint indicates some of the money paid to Lois Tire Shop via Tichigan Volunteer Fire Department checks was for service/repairs for Bluhm’s personal vehicle.

Additionally, the complaint indicates Bluhm is accused of using Tichigan Volunteer Fire Department money to purchase accessories for his personal vehicle, including:

  • $200 for strobe lights on July 22, 2013
  • $250 for “Apollos” installed on his vehicle on Aug. 21, 2013
  • $410 for “Tichigan FD” installed on his vehicle on March 25

These payments were made to PRV Upfitters via PayPal — and the complaint indicates the payments were made with a Tichigan Volunteer Fire Department credit card.

Bluhm is accused of using Tichigan Volunteer Fire Department money to pay for personal cell phones, according to the complaint:

  • Dec. 6, 2010: $424.87
  • July 19, 2011: $219.02
  • Sept. 27, 2011: $217.93
  • Nov. 21, 2011: $334.85
  • June 12, 2012: $258.96
  • Dec. 26, 2012: $501.68
  • April 23, 2013: $587.30
  • Sept. 10, 2013: $426.54
  • Feb. 4, 2014: $621.25
  • May 31, 2014: $943.49
  • Sept. 9, 2014: $650

Bluhm is accused of using Tichigan Volunteer Fire Department money to make the following purchases from Emergency Medical Products — purchases that were converted to personal use, according to the complaint:

  • Jan. 7, 2013: $66.45
  • Feb. 19, 2013: $55.25
  • Feb. 25, 2013: $165.75
  • June 7, 2013: $63.30
  • Jan. 2, 2014: $179.40

The complaint indicates $455.08 was paid using a Tichigan Volunteer Fire Department debit card for hotel rooms in Michigan, booked via Hotels.com. Bluhm admitted this was a family vacation — and not work-related, according to the complaint.

Bluhm is accused of making several purchases to fill personal vehicles with gasoline from January 2014 through October 2014 — totaling more than $3,000.

The complaint makes reference to the following fraudulent reimbursement requests paid by the Tichigan Volunteer Fire Department:

  • $309.66 on May 19, 2013: The item purchased was not located within Fire Department inventory, and the complaint indicates Bluhm had converted this item for personal use
  • $304.25 on June 11, 2013: The complaint indicates a check from the Tichigan Volunteer Fire Department was cashed by Bluhm.
  • $485.10 on Sept. 30, 2013: The money was paid for boarding for an EMS conference, and the complaint indicates Bluhm had been previously reimbursed for this expense.
  • $760 on Aug. 18, 2014: The money was paid to Bluhm for four admissions to the Paramedic Systems of Wisconsin Conference — and the complaint indicates $760 was paid via a Tichigan Volunteer Fire Department debit card.

The complaint indicates the following purchases were made by Bluhm from Somar Tek, LLC. using Tichigan Volunteer Fire Department funds:

  • June 9, 2009: $189.95
  • March 12, 2013: $900.86
  • June 7, 2013: $115.98
  • May 30, 2014: $1,302.99

The items purchased were converted to personal use by Bluhm, the complaint alleges.

Tichigan Volunteer Fire Department

Tichigan Volunteer Fire Department

The complaint accuses Bluhm of misappropriating a total of more than $20,000 from the Tichigan Volunteer Fire Department.

Ahead of Bluhm’s preliminary hearing in this case, his attorney filed a motion to dismiss the charges in this case — arguing gas, telephone calls, equipment and wear-and-tear to Bluhm’s personal vehicle are all part of Bluhm’s duties as the chief of a volunteer fire department.

David Wagner, the current chief of the Tichigan Volunteer Fire Department said no one is allowed to fuel up or purchase any equipment for their personal vehicles with department funds.

Wagner alleged Bluhm would sign his own authorization forms to make purchases when he was chief — and says there are additional checks and balances in place now.

This isn’t the first time Bluhm has found himself in the hot seat. In 2005, FOX6 News reported Bluhm was accused of stealing a Jack Daniels dartboard holder from the scene of a warehouse fire. At the time, he was deputy fire chief in Big Bend/Vernon.

Todd Bluhm

Todd Bluhm

Investigators believe he lied to authorities twice about the alleged theft.