Hero firefighter charged with fraud

James Gale, seen here in May 2009 after receiving a letter of commendation for bravery for saving a...

James Gale, seen here in May 2009 after receiving a letter of commendation for bravery for saving a fellow firefighter, has been charged with fraud. (VERONICA HENRI/Toronto Sun files)

Rob Lamberti, Special to the Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 5:10 PM ET

On July 10, 2012, fraud-related charges against James Gale were stayed by the Crown in the Ontario Court of Justice.

TORONTO - A hero Toronto firefighter is being raked over the coals with allegations he burned his fellow firefighters and hockey star cousin out of almost $100,000.

James Gale, of Scarborough’s Station 224, is charged with scamming seven victims, five who are fellow firefighters, between 2008 and 2010.

Lead investigator Det.-Const. Luigi Trovato of the 42 Division fraud unit said he believes there are other victims who haven’t come forward.

He suspects some haven’t come forward out of embarrassment or they can’t accept that a fellow firefighter is alleged to have scammed brothers in arms, Trovato said.

Gale is alleged to have approached several firefighters both during and after work hours urging them to invest in a payday loan company and that the investments would be short-term before it paid off, Trovato said.

The suspect used his cousin’s name, retired NHLer Gary Leeman, claiming he was an owner of the company, sources said.

But Leeman himself is a victim in the scheme, sources said.

Trovato alleged there is no company.

“There was a common theme he pitched,” Trovato alleged. “The theme was false. It was a straight-out con.”

The first victim approached police in December and by April, the other known victims came forward, he said.

Gale returned from Florida and surrendered to police on April 17.

He was released on $35,000 bail, with no deposit, the following day and was remanded for a May 6 court appearance.

Gale was one of two firefighters honoured for bravery after they yanked their fallen captain from the basement of a burning apartment building in July 2008. 

He received the Medal of Bravery from Lt.-Gov. David Onley in 2009.

The pumper crew Gale was assigned to were among the first who responded to a hydro vault fire at 2 Secord Ave. The first and resulting power outage left the building temporarily uninhabitable and temporarily displaced about 1,000 people.

Gale and a second firefighter managed to escape the basement after an explosion rocked the building but they noticed their captain was still inside. 

They called for help and then returned into the building, overcoming thick smoke and flames to find their injured captain.

None of the swindled money has been recovered, Trovato said.

He believes there are other firefighters who were burned in the scheme, or at least approached to invest, and asks they call at 416-808-4207.


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