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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Monday, July 15, 2013
Official: Nearly one-quarter of stolen bus funds repaid to Bensalem
Posted: Friday, July 12, 2013
Roughly one quarter of the estimated $600,000 owed to the Bensalem School District has been repaid so far in connection with the theft that resulted in the arrests of 20 people, including current or former district employees earlier this year.
So far, seven defendants have made partial or full payments totaling $150,300, according to Bucks County Deputy District Attorney Robert James, who’s prosecuting the case.
The defendants are accused in a pair of theft schemes that could have been happening for as long as 15 years, authorities said. So far, 10 defendants have been sentenced or accepted into a special probation program, but all have been assessed a portion of restitution, ranging from $1,000 to $125,000.
Outcomes at a glance for Bensalem school district defendants
Most defendants have pleaded guilty, are serving probation and required to perform 30 to 100 hours of community service, which will be done on Bensalem Township School District property.
The defendant with the highest restitution bill is bus garage theft mastermind Frederick Lange, who awaits sentencing. The former mechanic owes $125,000 for his part in stealing district-owned tires, batteries, and other auto supplies and reselling them to friends who belonged to a classic car enthusiasts club. Club members and others who bought the stolen items also were arrested.
Bensalem business owner Joseph Bound, who pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two to 23 months of house arrest, has repaid his $90,000 in restitution, James said. Bound was among the people who received stolen car parts and auto supplies.
The most recent defendant sentenced, former district business manager Jack Myers, appeared with $14,000 of the $15,000 he owed at his sentencing, James said. Myers also must perform 100 hours of community service under a special probationary program for first-time, nonv
iolent offenders. He was accused of allowing a district employee to scrap out-of-service school vehicles and keep the profits.
Mechanic Patrick Hammond and business owner Joel Zober have each paid in full their restitution of $1,000 and $8,000, respectively, James said. Both men were accepted in the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program, known as ARD. Former bus mechanic Martin Chappell, also awaiting sentencing, has repaid the $2,300 he owes.
Defendants placed on ARD will be under a special supervised program, meaning that the Adult Probation and Parole Department will monitor them to ensure they complete their community service requirements and pay their restitution, James said.
Bristol businessman Elwyn Smith has paid $5,000 toward his $60,000 restitutio n order and he is expected to bring another $25,000 when he appears for sentencing, James said.
Still owing restitution are Joseph and Shannon Dyer, former grounds-keeping employees who were connected with a ghost employee scheme. They owe $92,250 each, and are expected to make a significant down payment at their sentencing hearing next week, James said.
Former facilities manager Robert Moseley was ordered to pay $87,511 to the district for his part in the “ghost employee” scheme in addition to two years probation. The money will come out of what the district owes Moseley for unused sick and vacation time upon formal termination, James said.
Neither Moseley nor Myers personally benefited from the thefts of time or property, but had knowledge of it and allowed it to continue, “so we assessed a higher restitution amount,” James added.
If a defendant fails to repay restitution or complete community service, it’s a probation violation that would result in jail time, James said. Defendants who violate ARD requirements risk having their cases re-listed for trial.
More defendants are expected to appear in court Monday, James said. The case is expected to wrap up by the end of August.
The initial $1.5 million estimated theft loss when the arrests were announced in February was based on the total amount of money the district spent on vehicle and mechanical supplies and employee pay; the amount was reduced to $600,000, based on information provide by defendants and losses that authorities could confirm, James said.