FAIRBANKS (AP) -- A former fire chief in Ester has pleaded innocent to charges that he embezzled more than $25,000 from the fire department over the last five years.
James ''Mike'' Oden entered his plea to first-degree theft charges in Fairbanks Superior Court on Thursday. He is scheduled for trial in September.
Oden is accused of using fire department money to buy a four-wheeler for himself and to pay for a family vacation to Texas, business trips to Anchorage for his other job, and maintenance for personal vehicles.
The former chief claims the fire department used the four-wheeler, his truck and a motor home, according to court records.
He also claims that he reimbursed the fire department for travel expenses incurred for training trips to Anchorage for his job at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Alaska State Troopers said the investigation began in March after the fire department's board of directors alerted them to discrepancies in the department's budget.
Oden resigned as Ester fire chief in April.
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