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Township officials charged with theft

by CHAUNCEY ROSS on April 18, 2013 11:00 AM

COMMODORE — State police have charged two members of the Green Township board of supervisors and two township employees with stealing township property, cashing it at a scrap dealer and pocketing the money for themselves.

Troopers filed charges against each of them on Wednesday at the Homer City district court.

Supervisors James Crawford, 73, of Purchase Line Road, Commodore, and Allen Shirley, 61, of Route 240, Commodore, and workers Gary Putt, 60, of Acorn Road, Commodore, and Dale Laney, 60, of Northern Cambria, are all charged with one count of theft by unlawful taking and one count of theft by failure to make required disposition of funds.

The charges are third-degree felonies.

All were released without being required to post bond. Preliminary hearings are scheduled for May 20.

In all, they are accused of keeping $14,189.31 obtained from the sale of scrap metal from a demolished bridge, a belt loader, a 1985 dump truck and various other pieces of scrap.

According to affidavits filed with criminal complaints, investigators obtained salvage slips from an unnamed scrap dealer showing seven transactions between March 16 and April 5, 2012.

When contacted at his home this morning, Crawford said he was advised by his attorney to not comment on the charges or his status on the board of supervisors. Likewise, Shirley declined to comment on the record.

Trooper Allison Goswick, of the state police station in Indiana, reported in court papers that the acknowledgment of the scrap-cashing surfaced last month among township officials.

At an executive session of the supervisors on March 12, “Crawford was formally confronted … (and) admitted that they sold the property,” according to the affidavit.

The third member of the board of supervisors, Kenneth Ferringer, is not mentioned by name in the court papers.

“Crawford advised at first they just put the money in a coffee can in the shop. He then advised that the shop was broken into a lot so he moved the cash to his safe at home for safe keeping,” Goswick wrote in the charging document. At the supervisors’ private meeting, “Crawford stated, ‘I made a mistake. What do you want me to do, resign?’”

On March 11, Crawford gave $4,729.84 to the township secretary and turned over $2,413.94 more on March 14, along with receipts for $1,271.57 worth of items that he said he bought for the township with proceeds from the sale of scrap material, according to Goswick.

But the secretary reviewed the receipts and found that more than $800 worth of items had been purchased earlier with money from the township’s general fund, according to the court papers.

“Crawford’s reaction to the discovery was ‘how did you notice that’ and ‘let’s just keep this quiet,’” Goswick wrote in the affidavit.

According to the charges, the men wrote and signed an agreement on March 26, 2012, stipulating that the supervisors would get 60 percent of the money and the employees would get 40 percent. Laney cashed the checks from the scrap dealer, Goswick reported.

According to the complaint, investigators have not been able to account for $7,045.53 of the proceeds of the scrap sale.

Crawford was elected to the board of supervisors in 1989 and 1995, then lost in the 2001 election. He was elected to his present term in 2009.

Shirley, who retired after working 35 years in coal mines, was appointed to the board to fill a vacancy in 2007, then was elected to a full six-year term in 2009.

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