HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. -- A Huntington Beach, Calif., man accused of impersonating a firefighter at the scenes of national disasters was fired from a job as a paramedic for stealing credit cards from patients being transported in his ambulance, according to court documents.
Jim Campbell, 45, was charged Wednesday with a misdemeanor count of impersonating a firefighter and two felony counts of gun possession by a felon. He pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors allege that he gained access to the scenes of disasters such as the World Trade Center collapse and hurricanes Katrina and Rita by presenting himself as a Los Angeles Fire Department captain/paramedic. He recorded himself in firefighter gear, usually alone, at those scenes, and put the recordings on a DVD that he sent out to potential clients of his firefighting equipment business, according to an affidavit by an investigator for the Orange County District Attorney's Office.
During 1987 and 1988, Campbell stole wallets from three patients being transported by Southwest Ambulance Co. and took their Visa cards, according to court records. He also took a credit card from an ambulance parked next to his. He was sentenced to six months in jail for the crimes.
On July 28, 1989, he had his paramedic's license revoked because of the convictions and his failure to disclose that he had two other felony convictions from his late teenage years, according to the investigators' affidavit. Campbell was convicted of stealing a two-way radio from a police vehicle when he was 17 and was sentenced to 60 days in jail a year later for residential burglary.
In the report, Campbell's former girlfriend, Wendy Flotow, described him as "sweet, funny and a pathological liar."
Campbell's lawyer has defended him as a volunteer firefighter, but an inventory of evidence seized during a search of his apartment tallies dozens of items from the Los Angeles Fire Department.
"Campbell routinely wore a Los Angeles County Fire Department T-shirt when he walked around town and told people that he was a firefighter," the report says.
A Campbell employee named Kelly Corbett, whose father was a firefighter for 35 years, began to ask around when she realized Campbell did not work 24-hour shifts and seemed only to respond to fires after 5 p.m. or on the weekends.
Those calls led to the investigation and criminal charges.
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