Former fire chief declared guilty

Published 4:03 pm Friday, September 29, 2017


Former West Chilton Volunteer Fire Department chief Steve Tate was found guilty by a jury on a first-degree theft of property guilty verdict by a Chilton County jury on Sept. 28.

“The jury has spoken, and after a lengthy process, we can close this chapter and proceed to sentencing,” Chief Deputy District Attorney C.J. Robinson said.

A sentencing for Tate is scheduled for Nov. 9, in front of Circuit Judge Bill Lewis, according to a press release from the Office of the District Attorney.

Tate was found guilty of depositing into his own account money stolen from the West Chilton Fire Department, of which he served as fire chief. The Alabama State Fire Marshals investigated the case and signed a warrant for Tate’s initial arrest in August 2014, the release read.

Tate was arrested with two other fire department officials, including his wife and department treasurer Donna Tate and treasurer Apache Corona, who was allegedly involved in the initial embezzlement that kick-started the crimes against the West Chilton Fire Department.

Robinson explained that the “convoluted” crimes had begun by whom Robinson believed to be the fire department treasurer.

Robinson said Tate confronted the treasurer who had supposedly embezzled money from the fire department.

“The treasurer wrote a check to Steve Tate for money that was owed to the West Chilton Fire Department,” Robinson said. “Steve deposited that check into his own personal account — so like $48,000 — and then a couple days later, he put about $32,000 or $33,000 in the West Chilton Fire Department account, saving about $14,000 or so for his own personal use. And that’s kind of how the whole case came about.”

Corona’s charges were dropped in September 2016, and according to Robinson, Donna Tate pleaded guilty to theft of property in the fourth degree on Sept. 25, just days before Steve Tate was declared guilty.

“So, all of the charges surrounding the West Chilton Fire Department are now disposed,” Robinson said.

“I am proud of the diligence and professionalism of the State Fire Marshals and our people at the D.A.’s Office,” Robinson said. “It’s never easy to prosecute a law enforcement officer, but when you soil the badge and cross that line to commit a criminal act, the law must be enforced.”