A fire department probe has upheld charges that an Italian-American captain falsely claimed to be Hispanic in order to get promoted, according to a published report.

An internal investigation confirmed accusations that Capt. Thomas Santoro, committed "ethnic fraud" by switching his ethnic designation from Caucasian to Hispanic in 1979, the San Francisco Examiner reported Friday, quoting department sources.Fire Chief Fred Postel acknowledged that the investigation had been concluded but would not comment on the findings.

Fire officials have said that if found guilty of the charges before the Fire Commission, Santoro could be demoted and face other discipline. Santoro, a 23-year veteran, has been serving as an acting battalion chief for more than a year.

Santoro said he had not been informed of the findings and said he had no comment on the matter except that he was considering a lawsuit in his defense.

The case began in October when a fellow firefighter, Capt. Pete Roybal, said he overheard a conversation about how Santoro had changed his ethnic classification to get promoted under affirmative action regulations.