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Phony firefighter faces another felony

AVOCA -- A man charged last month with receiving stolen fire department property now faces a second charge, and his friend and roommate is now facing a felony count, too.

Joshua Michael DeGuara, 31, of Avoca, is charged with two felony counts of receiving stolen property. Bradley Dean Swanson, 21, of Avoca, is charged with one.

DeGuara, who was recently convicted of theft of a cell phone cover with a fire department emblem engraved on it and was once convicted of impersonating a fire man, was charged in November after equipment belonging to the Avoca Fire Department was found in his home during an unrelated search warrant execution. DeGuara had been a probationary member of the department for about three months before being voted off after equipment began to disappear.

Several days after the Daily Globe article that detailed DeGuara's original charge, Swanson's vehicle was repossessed. Employees of Viking Car Credit found a bag in the truck full of fire equipment and, having read about equipment still missing in Avoca, called authorities.

Inside the bag was a set of turnout gear with the name Craig written on the inside. According to Avoca Fire Chief Bob Wahl, that particular set of gear had belonged to a fireman who had moved out of the area. Wahl identified for authorities the gear, boots, gloves and a flashlight.

The bag also included other protective gear, small tools found in the pockets of the turnout coat, an oxygen tank and a metal tag engraved with DeGuara's name and the words, "First Resp., Firefighter."

DeGuara's vehicle had been repossessed a few days before Swanson's. A Murray County deputy inventoried items in both vehicles and found a fire hydrant wrench, a metal detector, a fuel siphon hose, several nozzle wrenches and a door knob tool. The metal detector, which had been reported stolen from a residence in Slayton, was turned over to the Slayton Police Department.

Swanson was brought in for an interview and told authorities the bag belonged to DeGuara, who had asked him to put it in his car because he was worried authorities would find it. According to the report, Swanson told a deputy DeGuara had taken an oxygen tank from the fire hall. The deputy had not mentioned to Swanson an oxygen tank had been found.

Swanson allegedly said he knew DeGuara was a thief and knew he had stolen tools and a set of knives from a store in Slayton, even explaining how DeGuara accomplished his shoplifting. He told the deputy of other items he knew DeGuara and his wife had stolen, such as televisions.

"He said he is positive there are stolen items in DeGuara's house and garage, but the only items he knew of were tools," the report states. "He specifically stated he thinks half the tools in the garage are stolen."

DeGuara was interviewed and told the deputy he didn't remember putting the bag in Swanson's car. He said he wore the turnout gear home from a brush fire so he could wash it.

He allegedly admitted to taking a wrench with a seatbelt cutter out of the hall and putting it in his truck in case he ever needed it. When asked about the metal tag with his name on it, he admitted he had never been an EMT or first responder.

When the deputy met with the Avoca Fire Department officers, it was confirmed that many of the items belonged to the department. While discussing the theft of the equipment, the officers told the deputy they have spent countless hours inventorying equipment and dealing with the fallout of the thefts from the fire hall.

They also explained how they knew the gear found in Swanson's car had not ever been worn or used by DeGuara, because the turnout gear he had been issued was older, and during the brush fire he had accidentally taken gear belonging to another firefighter, not the gear found in the bag. The gear had been in its proper place shortly before DeGuara was voted off the department, after the fire at which he claimed to use it.

Still missing from the department is approximately $1,000 worth of equipment.