Former Denton County fire chief charged with 13 counts; accused of theft, embezzlement

The former Denton County fire chief has been charged with more than a dozen federal charges for using nearly half a million dollars of his firefighters’ retirement savings for personal expenses, including casinos, restaurants and a family business in Hawaii, documents show unsealed Friday.

A grand jury on Wednesday indicted Troy “Mac” Hohenberger, 63, who served as chief of Denton County Emergency Services District 1 in Argyle, on three counts of theft or bribery relating to federally funded programs, five counts of theft or embezzlement with an employee benefit plan and five counts of misrepresentation.

The indictment alleges that “Hohenberger accessed, stole, used, misappropriated and intentionally withdrew and converted funds from the AFD operating account for his own needs and purposes.”

Hohenberger, who resigned from office a few weeks ago, was arrested at DFW International Airport on Thursday. His attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Denton County Emergency Services District 1 said it was briefed on the FBI investigation, according to a news release Thursday, but would not provide additional information due to the ongoing investigation.

“Denton County ESD 1 remains committed to providing transparency to staff and the community during this process and will continue to work with the FBI as all inquiries are processed,” the department said.

Hohenberger pleaded not guilty to all 13 charges on a first court appearance and was released from custody. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in federal prison on the most serious charges.

Nearly $500,000 stolen, FBI says

According to the indictment, from February 2018 to May 2021, Hohenberger made around 80 payments totaling more than $490,000 using his private credit card.

The payments used funds from the fire department’s operating account, which received federal funds in the form of Medicare reimbursements, the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas said.

In addition to Hohenberger allegedly using about $350,000 for cash advances at multiple casinos, court documents state that more than $50,000 was used for expenses at a business in Hawaii run by a relative.

Additional funds were spent on taxes on his property, meals at restaurants, travel expenses, retail purchases, medical and dental expenses, car expenses and other personal expenses, the indictment said.

From January 2018 to December 2021, Hohenberger also failed to pay more than $690,000 in firefighter pension contributions that were withheld from their paychecks and failed to open retirement accounts for several new firefighters, the indictment said.

According to the file, Hohenberger then incorrectly stated on tax forms that he had not refrained from making any payments.

After confronting firefighters whose accounts were tight, the indictment states Hohenberger returned “numerous deposits” to their accounts but never returned them in full.

Complaint for dismissal without notice

Last November, Hohenberger was named as a defendant in a wrongful termination lawsuit by one of his former employees, Harold Ring, who accused Hohenberger of firing him after raising questions about the department’s management of her 401(k) plans .

Eric Roberson, who represents Ring, said neither he nor his client had communicated with the FBI, adding Thursday he was surprised to learn Hohenberger had been arrested.

Roberson is pursuing a class action lawsuit against Hohenberger and the department, alleging that they “failed to make timely deposits into the 401(k) accounts” of at least 46 employees.

“The financial mismanagement of this fire department warrants scrutiny,” Roberson said. “Although I have no evidence as to why these payments were missed, I asked permission of the court to see if any money was missing.”

Staff writer Hojun Choi contributed to this report.