Policeman faces felony fraud charge
A veteran Corydon marshal who also taught students the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse was arrested Friday afternoon on charges of fraud on a financial institution, a class C felony.
Randall L. Fessel, 35, of Corydon was arrested at his home by Indiana State Police without incident about 2:30 p.m. He remains in the Harrison County Jail on a $8,500 cash bond.
In an affidavit filed in Harrison Superior Court, Indiana State Police Det. Sean Clemons said that in November Fessel talked with Donald J. Hussung, vice president at First Harrison Bank, about obtaining a short term loan so Fessel could repay money he had borrowed from the Harrison Township Volunteer Fire Dept. Fessel, a volunteer firefighter with that department, had borrowed the money for expenses he incurred to hold the 2000 DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) Camp of Champions.
Fessel, a 10-year DARE officer and part-time emergency medical technician, started the camp in 1995 as an extra session for students, most commonly fifth graders, who just completed the regular 17-week course held during the school year.
During the discussion about the loan, Fessel told Hussung he was to receive a grant that would cover the loan. Hussung asked Fessel to provide a copy of the grant award and required two other officers of the DARE camp be co-signers for the loan.
Hussung told police that a short time later Fessel presented a letter from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute’s Juvenile/Safe Haven Division that included a grant number and said that the grant was approved.
On Dec. 14, Fessel and two other people went to the bank and signed a promissory note for the loan, which was due in a one-time payment on June 15.
The affidavit states that Hussung received information in July that the loan had not been repaid and attempts to contact Fessel were unsuccessful.
Last month, Hussung researched Fessel’s grant document and learned that the grant number was on a grant prepared by someone else and was awarded in August 1999 to a Harrison County school corporation. Hussung spoke with Clemons about the loan on Sept. 5, two days before Fessel’s arrest.
Clemons was told by the director of the ICJI Juvenile/Safe Haven Division that neither Fessel nor the DARE Camp of Champions has ever applied for or received a grant through that office.
As Fessel’s DARE camp grew in popularity since 1995, fees for attendees increased from $45 the first year to at least $55 in 1997, the most recent year information was available. Donations for the camp also increased since its inception.
The first camp, held at Otter Creek Park near Brandenburg, was three days. Later camps, held at the Harrison-Crawford/Wyandotte Complex, were a week-long. Besides additional DARE curriculum, camps included presentations by emergency personnel and programs such as explosives by Indiana State Police troopers and gun safety by Indiana Conservation Officers and other Indiana Dept. of Natural Resources personnel.
A news release from the Indiana State Police said it is believed that the two co-signers of the loan for Fessel were “unwitting participants in the crime.”
Fessel had an initial hearing in Harrison Superior Court late Monday morning. Judge Roger D. Davis entered a preliminary plea of “not guilty” on Fessel’s behalf. Davis said he will ask that a special judge hear the case, and scheduled a pre-trial conference for Dec. 3 at 2 p.m. Depending on how soon a special judge is appointed, that date may change.
“I’m sorry to see you here, Mr. Fessel,” Davis said to the Corydon marshal after tending to necessary formalities.
“I’m sorry to be here, Your Honor,” Fessel replied.
Indiana State Police said the investigation is continuing but declined further comment.