By Mila Besich-Lira
Charles “Chale” Vega, the former fire chief for the Town of Hayden, was arrested on Wednesday, Feb. 20, by the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office on suspicion of theft and was charged with theft and trafficking in stolen property.
According to Tamra Ingersoll, Public Information Officer for PCSO, their department was contacted by the Hayden Police Department after money from an annual dance fundraiser for the town’s volunteer fire department went missing. Hayden Police told the sheriff’s office that they believed the theft had been done by a town employee.
In the same time frame, Gila County Sheriff’s Office was investigating a theft of property from ASARCO. Stolen from the mine company were as many as four chainsaws valued at $1,120 each.
Vega, who had been recently removed as fire chief and a former ASARCO employee, was determined to be the person to whom the warehouse had delivered the chainsaws.
GCSO detectives had seized one of the stolen chainsaws after Vega allegedly attempted to sell it. Detectives believed that Vega was trying to replace the money taken from the town fundraiser. Vega later admitted to PCSO deputies that he had stolen funds from a fire department dance for personal use and also stole chain saws from ASARCO. He later tried to sell the chainsaws to recover the dance funds he stole.
Last week, Vega defeated the longtime Mayor Monica Badillo for the mayoral seat. If the newly elected mayor is convicted prior to the June swearing in ceremony, the town will have to select another mayor. If he is not convicted prior to being sworn in, he will take his seat as mayor. Arizona State Law prohibits convicted felons from voting or serving as an elected official.