A recently hired Washington County Sheriff's deputy who also serves as the Dunham Township volunteer fire chief has been terminated following his arrest with two other men on a charge of breaking and entering.
The incident occurred more than four years ago, prior to the hiring of Dustin K. Maze, 30, of 127 Maze Road, Belpre, as a corrections officer earlier this year, according to information provided by Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks. Maze is also being investigated for allegedly misusing a credit card belonging to the Dunham fire department and could face an embezzlement charge, Mincks said.
Maze was arrested Tuesday evening on a fifth-degree felony count of breaking and entering, along with his brother, Brent M. Maze, 39, of 283 Maze Road, and Anthony E. Cronin, 40, of 710 Ohio Ave., Belpre. Cronin has served as assistant chief at the Dunham department, although someone else is listed in that position now, according to Jeff Lauer, Washington County Emergency Management Agency director.
All three men were released Wednesday on $2,500 bonds, following their initial court appearances, Mincks said.
The men are accused of stealing motorcycle riding gear and other items from a residence at 3118 Barnett Ridge Road, Fleming, sometime between Jan. 1, 2007, and Dec. 31, 2008.
Mincks said Maze was hired as a corrections officer in March and later assigned as a probationary deputy. He was still participating in field training when he was arrested.
About Dustin Maze
Hired by the Washington County Sheriff's Office as a corrections officer in March and later appointed as a probationary deputy.
Previous experience included work as a full-time and part-time officer for the Beverly and Pomeroy police departments and a part-time officer for the Coolville Police Department.
Served as the Dunham Township Volunteer Fire Department chief.
"We have not had anything except praise for his work from his supervisor," Mincks said. "He was a good officer. He just made a bad decision years ago."
Prior to being hired by the sheriff's office, Maze served as both a full- and part-time patrolman with the Beverly and Pomeroy police departments and a part-time officer in Coolville. Chiefs at all three departments recommended Maze for hiring, according to records in his personnel file.
"There was no indication out there that anything like this had happened," Mincks said.
Mincks said the allegations originally came to light less than two weeks ago when Maze informed his supervisor that his ex-wife sent him a text message indicating she planned to notify the sheriff's office about the breaking and entering and embezzlement from the fire department if he did not drop his request for shared custody of the couple's two children. Maze reportedly denied the breaking and entering but admitted charging gasoline for his personal car and smokeless tobacco to a fire department credit card after returning from a fire run.
Although Maze said his ex-wife, Crimson Maze, would be contacting the office, she did not. Mincks said he then requested the assistance of the Marietta Police Department, and city police Detective Troy Hawkins was assigned to the case.
According to a release from the sheriff's office, Crimson Maze was interviewed and provided details about the breaking and entering, including a list of items taken, some of which she said she'd seen at her home.
The sheriff's office had no record of a breaking and entering being reported at the Fleming property in question, but when contacted, the owner, Jared Huffman, indicated he had lost items similar to those Maze's ex-wife described.
"He wasn't exactly sure when it happened because he wasn't living there at the time," Mincks said.
According to statements of facts filed with Marietta Municipal Court, Maze said he and the other men entered the home through an unlocked rear door and stole riding clothes they found in the basement. Cronin reportedly admitted taking motorcycle goggles and tires from the garage on the property. Brent Maze admitted entering the garage but said he did not take anything.
Dustin Maze remained on duty while the investigation was being conducted, but Mincks said he was with another officer at all times.
The issue with the credit card is still being investigated, and evidence gathered may be presented to the prosecutor's office for possible charges, Mincks said. Also under investigation is whether Maze's ex-wife could face any charges from her alleged attempt to use her knowledge of the crimes as leverage in the custody issue.
Phone numbers located for Dustin Maze and Cronin had been disconnected. Officials with the Dunham fire department could not be reached for comment.
Mincks said he hoped people would recognize the sheriff's office responded to the matter swiftly and there wouldn't be an effect on residents' confidence in law enforcement.
"If someone makes a mistake, we're going to investigate it," he said.
The sheriff's office has had a handful of employees cast in a bad light in the last five years, including two deputies who resigned amid allegations involving extra-marital affairs while on duty and a deputy who faced charges of domestic violence.
But Mincks said such problems can arise in any organization and he considers the office's integrity "outstanding."
Sheriff's Maj. Brian Schuck said it's impossible to always predict future problems when hiring someone, so the response to such wrongdoing is important.
"You need to weed these people out," he said.