The Associated Press
LANSING, Mich. (AP) - An Oceana County fire chief and three other men were charged Friday with scheming to illegally tap into the Michigan State Police radio system.
The radio system is supposed to be used by law enforcement or other public service agencies that have been authorized to access it.
The accused are Walkerville Fire Chief Jerry Lee Frick, 63; James Benjamin Brunk, 44, of Cadillac; Andrew John Felde, 41, of Grand Rapids; and James Edward Werner, 38, of Rockford.
Felde is accused of obtaining stolen or illegally manufactured Motorola radios. Werner and Brunk, who were Michigan State Police civilian employees, allegedly helped Felde program the radio to access the 800-megahertz system. They gave him computer software and templates for the radios so they would work on the system, Attorney General Mike Cox said.
Frick then bought three of the radios at half-price, Cox said, in part with grant money by submitting a fraudulent invoice to a local 911 system.
Frick said Friday there was no intent of fraud or misuse of the system. He said his goal was to provide more equipment for his fire department to legitimately use the system in a cost-effective way.
"We were trying to get more for less, which is what small, volunteer fire departments have to do," he said.
Frick said he had been led to understand the equipment would be OK to use. He said the proper radios eventually were purchased and those are the radios that have been used on the system for about a year.
Felde declined comment Friday. Efforts to reach Brunk and Werner were unsuccessful.
Cox said it's crucial that first responders be able to communicate on the system without others eavesdropping.
"Efforts were made to compromise the system," he said in a statement. "It is fortunate these efforts were stopped before any damage to the system occurred."
Frick faces up to 14 years in prison on one charge. The others face various felony charges and, if convicted, up to five or 10 years in prison.