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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Former Chief of Park Rangers Thomas Stritzel Gets Prison Time for Stealing from St. Louis

Posted By on Tue, Jan 28, 2014 at 8:00 AM

click to enlarge A St. Louis Park Ranger's view through the ears of Ezzy the horse. - ST. LOUIS RANGERS ON FACEBOOK
  • St. Louis Rangers on Facebook
  • A St. Louis Park Ranger's view through the ears of Ezzy the horse.

Thomas Stritzel, who used to lead the St. Louis park rangers, was sentenced Monday to serve three years in jail and to repay the $472,722 he and a partner stole from the city.

Stritzel and former St. Louis Parks deputy commissioner Joseph Vacca both earned a 36-month prison sentence and matching six-figure fines after embezzling funds from the city by creating a fake company and submitting sham invoices.

Stritzel and Vacca embezzled the money from January 2005 to December 2012 to pay personal credit-card charges, buy cars and fuel and fund other personal living expenses unrelated to the parks department.

See also: St. Louis Parks Officials Indicted on Fraud Charges, Allegedly Embezzled Funds For Years

"Taxpayers were slapped in the face when roughly half a million dollars was allegedly embezzled from City of St. Louis funds allocated to the parks department," Dean Bryant, head of the FBI's St. Louis office, said when the men were indicted. "The cooperation from the City of St. Louis enabled the FBI to uncover the multiple fraudulent schemes."

click to enlarge "My other car is a horse." - VIA ST. LOUIS PARK RANGERS

The two city employees were quickly removed from their official roles and turned themselves in to the FBI as charges surfaced last year. When Stritzel and Vacca were first arrested, St. Louis spokeswoman Maggie Crane told Daily RFT that if the charges were true, "they deserve everything they get for betraying the public trust."

See also: St. Louis Parks Dept: Former Officials Confess to Defrauding City of One-Half Million Dollars

Crane also said she hoped the sentencing would include a full restitution of the stolen funds to the city of St. Louis. She got her wish: Both men received only 36 months out of a maximum of twenty years, but United States District Judge Carol E. Jackson fined them each $472,722, the amount stolen from the city over seven years.

"We'll be looking at how this happened to minimize any risk of it ever happening again," Crane says.

Continue reading for the full indictment.

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