Former Susquehanna County Register/Recorder receives probation in check scandal

A former Susquehanna County elected official was sentenced to one year of probation and a $5,000 fine after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge related to a check-writing scandal while she was in office.

Michelle Estabrook, 59, New Milford, entered a guilty plea on May 9 to aiding the consummation of a crime and was sentenced by Judge Jennifer Harlacher Sibum that day.

The Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General filed the charge against Estabrook following an investigation into $12,000 in payments made from Register/Recorder department funds to her daughter for help with the office’s bookkeeping. Estabrook paid her daughter $1,000 per month, for a total of $12,000.

The expenditure of those funds had not been approved by the county commissioners, and according to the court documents, there is no evidence that any work on the department’s books took place.

Her daughter, Christine Lee, of Berlin, NH, was also charged in connection with the matter. On May 11, Lee was accepted into the county’s Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program for one year for theft by unlawful taking; conspiracy – theft by unlawful taking; and obstruction of the administration of law/other government function. She must also complete 75 hours of community service.

Estabrook delivered a single sentence resignation letter to the Susquehanna County Commissioners Office on Nov. 16, 2022, after the charges against her were filed in Montrose District Court.

Estabrook was in her second term as the Register/Recorder, first taking office in January 2016. In May 2022, the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission found that Estabrook violated the Public Official and Employee Ethics Act when she contracted with her daughter to perform an audit of the office’s books.

Last year, Estabrook provided the county with a $12,000 personal check made payable to the Recorder of Deeds Record Improvement Fund, which was listed as “reimbursement.”

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