The good people of Moosic need all the cash you can carry to help pay back the almost $400,000 you stole from the volunteer fire company where you once served as president.
Your heist might be the biggest rip-off in Moosic history.
Even with Moosic’s history of criminal political corruption – former mayor and councilman convicted for fixing tickets and drunken driving cases then getting re-elected – you, as a former Moosic councilman, have likely set a record.
Actually I’m impressed.
You tie a plastic freezer bag over the head of the public trust and rob hundreds of thousands of dollars from the fire company. You admit that you have a gambling problem and that you pumped money you stole into Bitty Bill’s, your Moosic ice cream shop.
Four hundred grand buys a lot of milkshake straws, Bitty Bill.
A lot of fire hoses, too.
The judge ordered you to pay back every penny. Before pleading guilty you wrote a big check of about $100,000 and then made a second measly payment of $4,000. Then you went to jail, serving up to 23-months in the county prison, and the money stopped. Bitty Bill’s is still in business and taking in money.
But you’re not paying back one penny. So goes the rules of the court, a prosecutor told me yesterday. And anytime a thief pays back $100,000 as restitution the repayment is considered a big victory, he said. Now my worry is that you will hose the fire company once again – that you, Bitty Bill, will find one reason or another not to pay back significant amounts of money, to repay what you stole and help restore the battered public trust.
Okay, forget about restoring the public trust. I’m sorry to say that the public trust died in Moosic a long time ago. You just poured chocolate syrup on the grave.
What many of us do not understand is why county prosecutors or at least the fire company did not move against your assets to recover whatever they could. Why not freeze your assets, take your home and your car and your ice cream truck? Why not seize anything and everything they could? Isn’t that the purpose of prosecutors and lawsuits?
The prosecutor told me that the business did not contribute to the theft.
But the theft contributed to the business.
And when you’re released you get to go right back to the business and resume your dream with a cherry on top.
The prosecutor told me that he hopes you make lots and lots of Bitty Bill cold cash so you can continue to repay your debt to the volunteers who fight fires in your hometown, protecting and serving and risking their lives to save lives and property.
But a Facebook page, “Boycott Bitty Bill’s” is not so quick to let you off the hook and ladder. Call me a Facebook friend who does not want one more banana split in your name. Redemption takes work, even religion for some thieves.
You might need church but sundae school is out of the question. Your Rocky Road has only just begun. I wish you well, Bitty Bill, but only after you begin the long trek to genuine rehabilitation. Using a single scoop of the almost four hundred thousand dips you stole to help you pave the way to success is simply unacceptable.
Law-abiding mom and pop neighborhood ice cream parlors struggle throughout our region to offer something of the good old days to young and old alike. But the “Bitty Bill Bandit” poisoned the innocence. Bitty Bill “toxicles” should not be among the old-fashioned traditions doing well in our sad little neighborhoods that too often change for the worse.
What also is behind the times is some people’s gullible willingness to excuse your behavior.
“He’s a really good guy,” some people say.
No, he’s not a really good guy.
Bill Sweeney, a young man in his early 30s, is forever the Bitty Bill Bandit, who consciously and willfully stole year after year after year from his fire house, ripping off more money than most homes are worth in his borough. Gambling, business, ego, pathology, a culture of corruption and other fool factors all contributed to this small town melt-down.
The Bitty Bill story seems as if it could only happen here.
As weird as the sordid tale has become, it remains our story, our problem, our dilemma that requires a solution - if the children of this community will ever have even a slim chance to understand why morality seems to matter less than a cool gallon of greed to go.