San Mateo County fire chief pleads not guilty in theft

Fire Department pleaded not guilty on Thursday to six counts of grand theft and other charges in connection with an alleged credit card fraud scheme.

Prosecutors said the scheme allegedly involving 50-year-old Fire Chief Mark Ladas resulted in the theft of tens of thousands of dollars.

According to county prosecutors, Ladas' wife, Peta, opened credit cards under fake names starting in 2011 and then used them to make purchases at a fake business she set up.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Karen Guidotti says the proceeds included roughly $35,000 in three bank accounts in Mark Ladas' name. He has been placed on paid administrative leave.

Ladas was arrested Wednesday and is in custody on $80,000 bail. Deputy Chief John Kammeyer has been appointed acting chief, the fire department said.

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.

Prosecutors say Peta Ladas, who had already been arrested in connection with the activity on Dec. 18, 2012, but posted $10,000 bail, has fled the country. If located, she will face similar and additional charges as her husband, Guidotti said.

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