Police: Canonsburg man forged court documents

January 11, 2013

A Canonsburg man was arrested Thursday on charges he forged court documents to make it appear that he was appealing his eviction from his apartment at 136 E. Pike St.

John Matthew Thomas was taken into custody by Canonsburg police after he reportedly reentered his former apartment Thursday morning.

His landlord, George Loutsion of Vermlou Properties of Canonsburg, filed an eviction notice in November with District Judge David Mark seeking $2,700 in back rent and eviction. Mark held a hearing and ordered Thomas to vacate the apartment by Dec. 15 as well as pay the back rent and filing fee.

When Constable John Tustin went to the apartment to evict Thomas in December, the 38-year-old presented him with a yellow copy of a notice of appeal that he claimed to have filed at the Washington County prothonotary’s office. Blank appeal forms are available at the prothonotary’s office. The notice halts the eviction proceeding until the appeal is heard in Common Pleas Court.

Tustin gave Mark the document, who was suspicious of the paperwork, according to court documents filed by Canonsburg Detective Sgt. Al Coghill. A copy of the document was sent to Prothonotary Phyllis Ranko Matheny.

On Jan. 4, Matheny told police there were at least four problems with the form. Matheny, who was on vacation when Thomas claims to have filed the appeal, said her office would have signed the form and then written her initials. The appeal also would have been stamped with her name and a seal.

The docket number on the form was not valid, the financial transaction would not have been included and Thomas would have paid a bond, the prothonotary said. Matheny said there is no record of a bond having been paid.

Thomas was arraigned before Mark on charges of forgery, unsworn falsification and tampering with public record. He was placed in the Washington County jail on $10,000 bond. A preliminary hearing is set for Feb. 20 before Mark. Police also plan to charge Thomas with defiant trespass for allegedly entering the apartment without permission Thursday.

Kathie O. Warco has covered the police beat and transportation for the Observer-Reporter for more than 25 years. She graduated from Duquesne University with a degree in journalism.

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