BECKLEY, W.Va. — A Raleigh County firefighter pleaded guilty Wednesday to mail fraud charges.

U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart’s Office announced Michael Cowger, 50, admitted to fraudulently receiving over $20,000 from the City of Beckley, West Virginia University and the Beaver Volunteer Fire Department where he served as chief. Cowger also was a part time instructor for WVU and previously a firefighter for the City of Beckley.

“First responders-firefighters, policemen and others-are role models and heroes in our communities,” said Stuart. “It is disheartening when someone who should be a role model is responsible for fraud and deceit. Although the resulting losses may seem minimal to some, no level of fraud is insignificant when committed by an individual in a position of trust.”

Cowger admitted to submitting travel, training and supply reimbursement requests when he knew he had already received money for the same expenses.

He also admitted to manipulating hotel and training reservations and payments to make sure he received two receipts with two different credit card numbers for the same event. This was to hide from the City of Beckley that he already used a WVU P-Card to pay for the events.

As part of the plea, Cowger has agreed to pay restitution in the following amounts: $15,638.28 to the City of Beckley, $5,099.64 to WVU and $204.85 to the Beaver Volunteer Fire Department.

Cowger faces up to 20 years in a federal prison when he is sentenced on September 17, 2018 under Assistant U.S. Attorney Meredith Thomas.

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