Former village fire chief sentenced for taking 9/11 charity money

CLEVELAND (AP) - A former village fire chief was sentenced to one year in prison for stealing money raised by his department to help families of New York City firefighters after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Jack Maji, 62, apologized in court Wednesday for embarrassing the Oakwood Fire Department, the village and his family, but he offered no explanation for the thefts.
"I did a couple of really incredibly stupid things," Maji told Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Kathleen Sutula. "I probably will never be like I was before."
Oakwood Village firefighters joined countless others around the country in the weeks after 9/11, raising money for the families of fellow firefighters who died at the World Trade Center.
They managed to collect more than $8,100 from passing motorists on a main street in the suburban Cleveland village.
Maji (pictured, above) pleaded no contest to theft in May and admitted taking the money in small bits while it sat in his office. Police discovered the theft last fall, after other firefighters began asking about the money and found no evidence that Maji had given it to charity.
Maji's lawyers had asked for probation for the 29-year fire department veteran after his conviction on two counts of theft in office.
But the judge said she was not convinced that Maji was sorry for what he had done.
"I didn't hear a single word of sorrow for the child who won't be able to go to college because his father died on Sept. 11, 2001," Sutula said. "It's a disgrace to anyone who has ever worn the uniform."
The judge also fined Maji $15,000, to be paid to a Sept. 11 victims' fund.
Maji also was convicted of taking a laptop computer donated to the village.
Maji, who earned $53,000 a year as fire chief, has already paid $8,113, the amount raised, to the American Red Cross.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)