LITTLE RIVER-ACADEMY — A local volunteer fire department plagued with past charges of theft of funds by its former fire chief and his son is facing issues again — but not financial ones this time.

Three Little River-Academy volunteer firefighters were arrested Wednesday by the Bell County Sheriff’s Department. John Burroughs, the assistant fire chief; John Mercer, a captain; and Joshua Adkins, a lieutenant, were in the Bell County Jail on Thursday. All three were jailed on third-degree felony holds, and the charge at press time was listed as “screening.”

Karen Hoelker, president of the Little River-Academy Volunteer Fire Department, said she knew the three men were working Wednesday as bond apprehension agents.

Burroughs, 31, is a Temple resident, while Mercer, 50, lives in Heidenheimer. Adkins, 28, lives in Killeen, according to jail information.

T.J. Cruz, Bell County Sheriff’s Department spokesman, said he would not discuss details of any alleged offenses that led to the arrests until formal charges have been filed.

Anthony Anderson with Anderson & White Bail Bonds said he believed Burroughs was looking for someone for the bond company and approached a woman in a car. Anderson mentioned the woman sped away in the vehicle and, at some point, he believed a gun was drawn by someone.

Burroughs, a convicted felon, is not a licensed bail bondsman but was working Wednesday for Anderson, Anderson told the Telegram.

Burroughs doesn’t apprehend people but just finds them and calls the police, according to Anderson.

“He’s pretty good at finding folks,” Anderson said.

Anderson said he doesn’t really know Adkins or Mercer, who reportedly were with Burroughs, although he said he met one of them previously who has a private investigator’s license. He didn’t know which man it was.

Burroughs also did fugitive apprehension at one time for Justice Bail Bonds in Belton, a business card showed. 

Adkins is a licensed private investigator and guard. His license expires March 15, 2021, and he’s employed with Forrest Bruce — who owns All About Investigations & Security.

Mercer also is a licensed private investigator employed by Peace of Mind Investigations of Copperas Cove. His license was issued May 7.

Past criminal convictions

Burroughs doesn’t carry a gun because of his previous criminal record, Anderson said.

To become a licensed bail bondsman, Texas law requires a person must not have a conviction of a felony or misdemeanor crime of moral turpitude.

Texas Department of Public Safety criminal records indicated Burroughs, who is currently on probation, was convicted several times for theft, ranging from a state jail felony to a misdemeanor. All offenses were in Bell County.

In February 2015, Burroughs was arrested and charged with theft of property between $1,500 and $20,000, a state jail felony on a Bell County Sheriff’s Department charge. He was given five years deferred adjudication probation by state District Judge John Gauntt in September 2015.

The five years’ probation was extended in May to six years.

Burroughs received deferred adjudication probation for some convictions, like theft by check. He was sentenced to 24 months deferred adjudication probation on a Bell County Attorney’s office case.

He was sentenced to 180 days in jail in 2014 for a misdemeanor theft of property charge.

The Bell County District Clerk’s office provided the 2014 affidavit for Burroughs, which showed he intentionally defrauded Navy Federal Credit Union out of more than $9,000 in 2014 by depositing checks into his account through the ATM and then immediately withdrawing the funds through the ATM — leaving the account overdrawn, the affidavit said. Navy Federal Credit Union took a loss and charged off the account on July 23, 2014.

Ongoing issues

Little River-Academy Mayor Drew Lanham talked to the Telegram about the arrests. Lanham and the fire department have had a tumultuous relationship since former fire chief David Borders and his son, William Borders, were arrested and charged in connection with the felony theft of funds and credit card abuse.

Lanham claims that the new fire department leadership hasn’t been forthcoming with the department’s financial records — something Karen Hoelker disputes. Her husband, Aaron Hoelker, reportedly had an argument outside the fire station with Lanham and charged him with verbal assault.

Bond apprehension agents also are called bounty hunters. Licensed bounty hunters are considered private contractors but can make arrests.

Lanham didn’t seem disappointed or surprised that fire department members were arrested.

“I’ve been punched at and I’m punching back,” Lanham said.