BY STACI WILSON
A former Forest City borough secretary accused of stealing more than $140,000 in taxpayer funds over the past 10 years waived her preliminary hearing in Clifford District Court on Tuesday.
Police said that while Susan Coleman, 51, Vandling, was employed by the Susquehanna County borough, she cut herself duplicate paychecks, altered the town’s budget and used a borough credit card to make payments at Penn State University. She was terminated from the position in May.
Coleman was charged Aug. 27 by Pennsylvania State Trooper John Oliver with five felony counts Felony charges include: theft by unlawful taking or disposition; theft by deception; receiving stolen property; access device fraud; and forgery.
She was also arraigned in New Milford District Court by Judge Peter Janicelli and released on $50,000 unsecured bail.
According to the police affidavit, over the course of 10 years Coleman overpaid and wrote unauthorized checks to herself totaling $136,727 and racked up $4,050 in credit card theft and unauthorized personal purchases.
Police also allege $1,454 worth of payments to Forest City from Vandling for police services never made it to the borough’s coffers.
According to the affidavit, police met with Forest City’s solicitor Paul Smith, council president Robert Trusky and council vice-president Barbara Mihelc at the attorney’s request in May. Smith alleged to police that an audit and inspection of the borough’s financial records indicated Coleman had stolen money from Forest City since 2001.
Trusky explained Community Bank & Trust’s branch manager Brian Urbas notified him on April 30 of “irregularities” with the borough checking account, according to the affidavit.
The council president told police he called Coleman and she told him she had accidentally issued herself a duplicate check.
Trusky and Mihelc met with Urbas and discovered there were many instances of Coleman issuing herself a duplicate check, according to police. It was also then discovered that the secretary had signed Mihelc signature to some of the duplicate checks and that she was not authorized to do so, said police.
According to the affidavit, Smith requested the bank to research the borough’s past records and it was discovered Coleman had been issuing herself unauthorized checks since 2001.
Smith also told police he discovered the borough’s agreed upon budget had been altered before it was submitted to the town’s contracted Certified Public Accounting Firm, Bonita and Ramsey, in Scranton.
According to the affidavit, Coleman’s salary was increased on the budget she submitted to the accountants and she was responsible for the submission of the budget.
Coleman is also alleged to have opened a T-Mobile cellular telephone account and to have made multiple credit card purchases at a Target store in State College with borough funds.
According to the affidavit, Smith also provided police with documentation that Coleman had used a Forest City Borough charge card to make payments at Penn State University, State College, in 2010 and purchase computer equipment in 2008 and 2009.