San Mateo County's Central County Fire Chief Charged With Grand Theft, Fraud

The chief of San Mateo County's Central County Fire Department is facing charges that he participated in a complicated financial scheme with his wife that led to him fraudulently obtaining nearly $35,000, according to the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office.

Fire Chief Mark Ladas was arrested Wednesday and is in custody on $80,000 bail. He is charged with six counts of grand theft, two counts of filing false tax returns and two counts of tax evasion, Deputy District Attorney Karen Guidotti said.

He has been placed on paid administrative leave and Deputy Chief John Kammeyer has been appointed acting chief, the fire department announced.

The Central County Fire Department provides service for Burlingame and Hillsborough. Ladas was appointed chief in April 2013.

Guidotti said Ladas was arrested after years of investigation into a complicated scheme allegedly conducted by his wife, Peta Ladas.

Between January 2011 and June 2013, she allegedly opened fraudulent credit cards using numerous false names, set up false businesses and used the credit cards for false business transactions and then deposited the funds in bank accounts using fake names, Guidotti said.

Peta Ladas had already been arrested in connection with the activity on Dec. 18, 2012, but posted $10,000 bail and fled the country. She remains a fugitive, Guidotti said.

But before fleeing the country, she stayed in a Burlingame hotel and left a wallet behind containing her husband's ID and fake credit cards. A maid found the wallet and turned it over to Burlingame police, leading the district attorney's office to begin investigating Mark Ladas.

Guidotti said that district attorney's investigators found that
nearly $35,000 of the fraudulently obtained funds were deposited in three bank accounts he controlled and that the couple filed tax returns in 2011 and 2012 without claiming the income.

If located, Peta Ladas will face similar and additional charges, Guidotti said.

Mark Ladas is scheduled to appear in court Thursday afternoon. He will remain on administrative lead pending the outcome of the investigation, according to the fire department.

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