Hollidaysburg Herald - Reliable News for Hollidaysburg

By Rick Boston
Staff Writer 

Hollidaysburg Fire Chief Pleads Guilty To Diverting $57K in Grant Money


Last updated 4/1/2021 at 1:28pm

The chief of the Phoenix Volunteer Fire Company of Hollidaysburg was in federal court in Johnstown on March 26, where he entered guilty pleas to one count of embezzlement and four counts of filing false income tax returns for his part in diverting money for his personal use from a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant.

Anthony J. Dibona, of Hollidaysburg, issued the pleas in front of U.S. District Judge Kim R. Gibson.

Dibona assisted former Phoenix fire company member Benjamin Rhine in managing the $5.1 million FEMA grant that was to be used for recruiting new members.

Rhine pled guilty to embezzling $1.5 million in grant funds and will be sentenced in federal court on May 17.

Dibona pled guilty to stealing $57,242 and filing false income tax returns by omitting the grant income from his tax returns for the tax years 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2017, resulting in a total tax loss of $19,809.

Dibona, when filing his original tax returns for 2013, 2014 and 2015, failed to claim the grant money income and made written declarations which he knew were incorrect. After discovering that Dibona had received money from the grant that he did not report, the Internal Revenue Service advised him that the money was taxable.

Dibona, through a tax preparer, filed an amended return for the three years.

However, on July 24 to 25, Dibona went to a different tax preparer and filed a second set of amended returns, removing the grant money income and again making a written declaration that he knew was not correct under penalties of perjury. Dibona also filed an original tax return for the tax year 2017, failing to report the grant money income.

Dibona is scheduled to be sentenced in federal court on Aug. 2 by Judge Gibson. Gibson ordered a pre-sentence investigation, the results of which will help determine how much time behind bars, if any, Dibona will serve. The judge could also elect to sentence him to a period of supervision.

Dibona could face a maximum of 22 years in prison, 10 years for embezzlement and three years for each of the falsified income tax returns, a fine of $1,250,000 or both, but under federal sentencing guidelines, Dibona’s actual sentence will be based on the seriousness of the crime and any prior criminal history.

Dibona has also agreed to pay back the $57,242 stolen from the FEMA grant and make restitution to the IRS of $24,864 plus interest. Dibona remains free on $10,000 unsecured bail.


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