Stories written by Jo Ciavaglia, award-winning multimedia newspaper reporter at the Bucks County Courier Times in Bucks County, a suburb of Philadelphia, Pa.
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Friday, August 31, 2012
Cops: Bensalem school employee stole more than $400K in tires, auto parts
Posted: August 22, 2012
A 41-year Bensalem school district employee is charged with stealing more than $400,000 worth of truck tires and other auto parts over more than a decade and selling them for an annual profit of at least $20,000.
Frederick Lange, of Karen Court in Croydon, who turns 68 Thursday, is the lead mechanic and shop foreman for the district. He allegedly took the stolen items to his home during lunch breaks and at the end of his workday and arranged for their sale during work hours, according to police.
Lange was arraigned before Newtown District Judge Donald Nasshorn Tuesday on three, third-degree felony charges of theft by unlawful taking, criminal use of a communications facility and receiving stolen property. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison. He was sent to Bucks County prison in lieu of $200,000/10 percent bail.
The arrest was the result of an ongoing investigation involving the district’s school bus garage, according to a probable cause affidavit.
Bensalem police received “credible” information from three confidential sources that a mechanic known as “Fred” had been stealing truck tires, batteries, brakes and other auto accessories for 10 to 12 years, according to the affidavit.
On Monday, a police officer observed Lange’s 2004 GMC pickup truck at 7 a.m. at the school bus garage parking lot. About 55 minutes later, Lange was observed leaving the garage property in a blue district van, according to the affidavit.
The van was followed to his home and stayed there about two minutes. After the district van left the house, Lange was followed back to the bus garage. Immediately after the school van left Lange’s home, police said, they went to his property and saw two new truck tires with labels and stickers attached.
Later Monday, while conducting surveillance at Lange’s home, a maroon van was seen backing into the driveway. The van driver and Lange were observed moving truck tires from the rear of the property to the parked van, according to the affidavit.
Police detained both men and took them to police headquarters. The tires were seized and confirmed to be Bensalem School District property, police said.
During a police interview, Lange admitted the tires at his house were stolen from the Bensalem School District. He also told police that he had been involved in an “ongoing pattern” of theft for the last 10 to 14 years, during which he stole auto parts every month, according to the affidavit.
Among the items Lange admitted stealing: heavy and medium duty truck tires, batteries, brake pads, maxi brake chambers and transmission fluid and filters, according to the affidavit.
He told police he had sold about 100 newly purchased school district tires each year for the last 10 years, and estimated he earned a profit of $20,000 to $27,000 a year from the sale of the stolen property, the affidavit said.
He also told police he made many of the transactions and agreements to sell the stolen items during his scheduled work hours using his cellphone, the affidavit said.
A Bensalem School District spokeswoman Tuesday declined to say Lange is still an employee, calling the matter personnel related.
In a statement, district officials noted that, in June, the school board retained the private accounting and advisory firm EisnerAmper LLP to conduct a forensic audit and operational review of designated departments in the wake of recent misconduct by district employees.
The district also stated that “new controls” have been put into effect immediately, though the statement did not say what those measures are.
“We believe these activities, while reprehensible, if found to be true, would soon have been detected because of the board’s proactive stance,” the statement said. “The taxpayers of Bensalem deserve to have full accountability of their tax dollars and the board is committed to ensuring that the taxpayers are protected and the laws of Pennsylvania will be fully enforced.”
In May, the district confirmed information that some facilities department employees allegedly had falsified time records. Two employees resigned and one retired, Superintendent David Baugh said. No one has been charged.
Jo Ciavaglia: 215-949-4181; email: jciavaglia@phillyBurbs.com; Twitter: @jociavaglia