MIAMI COUNTY — A Troy man impersonating a volunteer firefighter was sentenced to serve eight months in prison in Miami County Common Pleas Court on Wednesday.
Jeremy Aldrich, 25, pleaded guilty to two counts of fifth-degree felony forgery in previous court proceedings. In a plea agreement with the state for the guilty pleas, the state dismissed one count of third-degree felony tampering with records and first-degree misdemeanor qualifications for fire official and unauthorized practice in Miami County Municipal Court.
Aldrich will be eligible for judicial release after 30 days if he submits a plan of action to the courts.
“What I did was wrong and selfish … being something I was not,” Aldrich said. Miami County Assistant Prosecutor Paul Watkins did not state a position to sentencing.
Judge Jeannine Pratt said she struggled with Aldrich’s case due to his prior criminal history including identity fraud, false alarms, disorderly conduct and inducing panic. The inducing panic felony charge stemmed from Aldrich calling in a bomb threat to a Clark County school when he was an adult.
Judge Pratt said she was concerned with not only the community’s safety, but Aldrich’s safety due to his mental health history. “I need to protect the public,” Pratt said.
Aldrich was arrested outside his place of employment, Panera Bread in Troy, on Nov. 22. While being questioned, he told officers he was a firefighter and showed a gold-colored badge and an official-looking ID card that identified him as a captain with Springfield Twp. Officers told him they knew he was not affiliated with any official organization and placed him into custody.
During a search of Aldrich’s vehicle, officers located a Level II firefighter certificate and an EMT Intermediate certificate. Both documents were found to be fraudulent, according to state databases. Aldrich also had a firefighter coat, a siren box and a tablet computer mounted in the vehicle. Other items seized included a window punch and seat belt cutter, a scanner, medical shears, handcuff case, vehicle lockout kit, lights and siren control and a BB gun. Aldrich admitted to officers that he forged a document to the BMV to obtain volunteer fire plates. He claimed he created the ID card himself and the badge was an old one that was issued by Springfield Twp.
Aldrich also allegedly told officers he performs roadside assistance and “it puts people at ease when they see he is a firefighter.” Aldrich also reportedly told officers he assisted at a fire in a field and used a shovel to put the fire out at a property on State Route 202 outside of Troy. He denied he set the fire himself.
The investigation began after a report of a vehicle driving recklessly at the scene of a traffic crash on Oct. 30. Aldrich was driving a white Ford Crown Victoria with a light bar and siren attached to his vehicle. He claimed to be a Springfield Twp. firefighter in Clark County and had several reports of showing up on medic calls in Troy. A records check with Springfield Twp. human resources listed Aldrich as a cadet when he was 14 and was released when turned 18. The fire chief stated they had not issued badges in 13 years and the station number is from another department and it was likely fake.
Department officials also checked state EMS certifications and Aldrich was not listed on any official roster. Aldrich had also been charged with falsification in 2016 when he was driving in an area with red lights activated on his car and claimed to be a Casstown firefighter.
In other news:
• Melissa S. Clark, 53, of Troy, was ordered to be evaluated and complete for the MonDay program, an in-patient treatment facility on Wednesday.
Clark entered a plea of guilty to one count of theft of drugs, a fourth-degree felony in previous court proceedings.
In a joint plea agreement, the state dismissed one count of fifth-degree theft and one count of fifth-degree drug possession. Clark was on community control for a previous theft of drugs charge with the same victim. Last November, Clark was charged with stealing morphine from a dying relative who was in hospice care. It was the second time Clark stole the medication from the relative, who has since passed.
Judge Pratt reserved 18 months in prison if Clark is not able to complete the program and extended her community control for five years. If Clark is unable to be admitted to the MonDay program, she will be sentenced in court at a later day. Clark also is required to enroll in the Drug Court program and intensive outpatient treatment, complete a mental health assessment, get a full-time job and attend NA/AA meetings twice a week upon her release from the program.
• A family member filed a civil lawsuit in Miami County Common Pleas Court against the Ludlow Falls man accused of murdering his wife.
Anthony Freels, administrator of his mother’s estate, Samantha Freels, filed the lawsuit dated Feb. 20, seeking monetary compensation for more than $25,000 in a wrongful death suit.
Randy Freels, 57, entered a plea of not guilty to murder, felonious assault, tampering with evidence and illegal discharge of a firearm in previous court hearings. Judge Jeannine Pratt continued Freels’ bond of $1.5 million set in Miami County Municipal Court.
The murder charge carries a 15 years to life sentence.
Freels allegedly shot and killed his 52-year-old wife in the area of Elleman Road and West State Route 55 in Union Township on Jan. 12.
Miami County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to a report of a car off the side of the road during poor road conditions on Jan. 12. Units on the scene advised the victim was not breathing. Samantha Freels’ vehicle was located in a creek, and she was pronounced dead at the scene.
Randy Freels was later apprehended by the Special Response Team at his home in the 2000 block of Rangeline Road. He remains incarcerated at the Miami County Jail.
Judge Jeannine Pratt said the court would draft a motion to withdraw Freels’ request. She set Freels’ final pre-trial date for April 2.
Follow Melanie Yingst on Twitter @Troydailynews
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