Firefighter faked 911 calls to steal at firehouses

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An FDNY firefighter from Hicksville made false 911 calls so he could steal money from the firehouses as rescuers chased false alarms, New York City officials said.

Joseph Keene, 34, was arraigned Friday in Queens on several felonies after fire, police and city investigators said they traced the "unfounded" calls to his cellphone and also got surveillance video that showed him entering a firehouse. Other thefts were referred to Staten Island's district attorney, city officials said.

In five thefts from May to two of them on Wednesday, Keene stole a total of about $2,000 from station houses, including one on Randalls Island, where he'd been working on light duty, said the city Department of Investigation, which probes corruption by city workers and contractors.

"It is surprising that a firefighter would both call in fake 911 calls and steal money from colleagues," investigation commissioner Rose Gill Hearn said. "To do so at this time, when there is a heightened need and demand for units to be responding to legitimate calls to people in need, is especially outrageous."

Neither Keene nor his attorney could be reached last night.

Usually, Keene would be near the targeted station when he called 911 from his cell, then go inside after the trucks left, Hearn wrote in a letter Friday to Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano. On May 29, he reported a smell of gas to a Staten Island firehouse, then took $150-$200, the letter said, while a June 2 call about a transformer sparking allowed him to take $400-$500 from another station.

Keene's biggest take was about $1,200 on June 11 after calling in a gas odor in Floral Park, investigators said. A video appears to show Keene getting out of a car similar to the one he owns, the letter said.

On Wednesday morning, Keene stole $40-$60 from the employee locker room at Randalls Island, the letter said. Later that day, as Astoria firefighters covered for a unit out on a Bronx fire, Keene went into their station without signing the logbook and took $100, authorities said.

Keene, with the FDNY for six years, was charged with second-degree falsely reporting an incident, fourth-degree grand larceny, second-degree burglary and petty larceny. Bail was set at $7,500 bond or $5,000 cash.

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He was suspended for 30 days without pay, said an FDNY spokeswoman, who declined to comment further.

Hearn noted that Keene entered at least one firehouse "unchallenged" and urged FDNY to train "housewatch officers" on security rules.

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