HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A former Houston firefighter is accused of impersonating an active duty firefighter after he was fired for allegedly committing fraud related to Harvey Relief.
Shane Horsted, a 14-year-veteran of the Houston Fire Department was formally terminated in Feb. 2018.
In a termination letter obtained by Eyewitness News, Horsted is accused of fraudulently applying for, and then receiving Harvey disaster financial relief aid for himself and on behalf of fellow Houston firefighters without their consent or knowledge.
Documents reviewed by Eyewitness News shows Horsted being accused of claiming the roof of his house had collapsed when it did not. The investigation said Horsted received at least $1,000 in gift cards meant for firefighters who actually suffered storm damages.
Sources say the fraud was discovered by the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) during an audit of its donations to Harvey relief efforts.
When the irregularities were reported to the HFD, they began an internal investigation. Horsted was officially served termination papers in February.
"Shane Horsted was at one point an employee of the Houston Fire Department," said Fire Chief Sam Pena, when asked about the charges earlier today. "He has indefinitely suspended about a month and a half ago."
Chief Pena would not go into detail about the suspension.
Court records show that in May, Horsted allegedly told an HFD records employee that he was an active duty firefighter while trying to obtain police documents.
When we approached Horsted about the charges at his Cypress-area home, the former firefighter spoke with Eyewitness News about firefighter pensions but did not answer questions about the pending criminal case, nor the fraud relating to his termination. Horsted then spent time recording Eyewitness News on his cell phone.
"At this point in time, we are pleading not guilty," said Markey Stroud, an attorney representing Horsted on the impersonation charge. "I believe the evidence will be clear when this is all said and done. The fire department Is attempting to silence him."
Horsted is the second Houston Firefighter who was fired for allegations of Harvey relief fraud.
The Houston Professional Firefighters Association coordinated much of the relief that poured in from around the country to support local firefighters. In relation to the latest developments, the union released the following statement:
Statement from the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association:
"It would be inappropriate for our organization to comment on what is a personal and private legal matter. Our mission remains focused on providing Houstonians excellent fire and ems service, being good stewards of city resources and giving back to the community we serve.
As Hurricane Harvey took aim at our city, Houston firefighters remained on the frontline, performing thousands of water rescues and assisting the people of Houston. All while their own homes were flooded and families displaced.
And it is in times like these that the HPFFA will always ensure that our firefighters and their families are taken care of.
We want to always ensure the generosity and donations of other firefighters across the country go to those who truly need it. We would like to thank the IAFF(International Association of Fire Fighters) and the TSAFF (Texas State Association of Fire Fighters) for their incredible assistance during such a difficult time."
READ HORSTED'S FULL TERMINATION LETTER
Man accused of impersonating firefighter fired from HFD for Harvey relief fraud