By Deedee Sun
KWCH – February 16, 2017
Fire departments across Kansas, warned about a possible scam. The email went to all members of the Kansas State Association of Fire Chiefs (KSAFC) with concerns about the “Fire Rescue Foundation” operated by a man named Robert, or Bob Dietz.
Part of the email reads, “Fire partners, I need to let you know about a potential scam artist in our area who may be planning to contact your department, if he hasn’t done so already.”
The email was sent to more than 200 fire chiefs across Kansas.
“This could be legitimate but could also might be a scam, and knowing how hard it is to come up with funding, there’s lot of departments, smaller departments that are less well-off that could easily fall into something that could cause them hurt,” said Brad Smith, president of KSAFC and the Derby’s fire chief.
The Butler County Emergency Manager, Jim Schmidt, says it all started when Dietz contacted the fire department in Cassoday, KS, offering his services.
“They need a better fire department. So they’re going to have to be shown there’s a way to do that. We have to get some grant money,” Dietz said.
Dietz says the Fire Rescue Foundation is a new non-profit – something that state documents confirm. He says part of what his company does is help fire departments raise money.
“We’re not doing this to make money, we’re doing this to help them. And any proceeds that come from that will go back to help other communities that have nothing,” Dietz said.
Schmidt says the conversation between Dietz and the Cassoday fire department raised several red flags, and they contacted Smith.
The email warned, “It appears his main MO is to offer to assist departments with fund-raising activities” and buying used equipment, like fire trucks.
Something that raised suspicions – Dietz’s business card says he’s a past fire chief. His website says he was a Battalion chief at the Washington Township Volunteer Fire Company (WTVFC) in 2002. Eyewitness News didn’t find that to be true. In fact, the fire department says the job of “battalion chief” doesn’t even exist.
“Bob was not a battalion chief at our department. We are a small volunteer department,” said Rob Bennett, an assistant chief with WTVFC.
“What made unsettling, this had been checked out and it appeared to not be true. So that was a flag in itself also. That this person really is not who he says he is,” Smith said.
The Washington Township assistant fire chief says he does remember Dietz making a similar pitch back in the early 2000’s.
“It sounds very familiar,” he said. “Hey I’m going to come in here and help you guys raise money, get your bingo’s back up. I can honestly tell you, we’ve never seen one penny from him,” Bennett said.
The email from the KS fire chiefs’ president reads, “You need to make your own judgments concerning his intentions.” Smith says in today’s climate, it’s always better to be cautions.
“There’s a lot of scams going on. People are out there trying to take advantage of individuals,” Smith said. “I felt the need to push it out to the state of Kansas and the fire chiefs so they can have an idea – this may come to your place, and it may not. But just be aware,” he said.
The assistant chief in Pennsylvania, has stronger words of caution…
“I wouldn’t recommend any department dealing with him, because he’s not a truthful person. In my opinion, he’s a scammer,” Bennett said.
We asked Dietz what he would say to fire chiefs in our state who are concerned about his company..
“We’re completely transparent,” Dietz said. “Every industry has its own grapevine.”
Robert Dietz was also convicted and served time in prison for two felonies – possession of child porn in Philadelphia, in 2007, and sexual exploitation of a child in Sedgwick County, in 1997.
A link to that information was also included in the email sent out to all Kansas Fire Chiefs.