Women accused of gambling away nearly $100,000 in stolen school lunch money

January 31, 2013
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Linda Metz/Observer-Reporter
Stacy Lee Shipley of Charleroi leaves her arraignment before District Judge Larry Hopkins Thursday morning. She and another former Charleroi Area School District cafeteria worker are charged with stealing nearly $100,000 from the district. Order a Print
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Linda Metz/Observer-Reporter
Sheila Ann Cook of Charleroi leaves her arraignment Thursday morning. Order a Print

Two former Charleroi Area School District cafeteria workers were released on $50,000 unsecured bond Thursday after they were arraigned on charges they stole more than $93,000 in lunch money over a two-year span.

Stacy Lee Shipley, 50, and Sheila Ann Cook, 49, both of Charleroi, were arraigned before District Judge Larry Hopkins.

Shipley is charged with dealing with proceeds of unlawful activities, theft, theft by failure to make required disposition of funds and forgery.

Cook is charged with dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities, criminal conspiracy to commit theft and receiving stolen property.

According to the criminal complaint filed by state police Trooper Matthew Gavrish, Shipley was responsible for handling the daily deposits for cafeteria sales at the Charleroi High School-Middle School and would take the deposits for her own personal use between Aug. 1, 2010, and Oct. 29.

On multiple occasions, Shipley did not place the deposits in the school safe or in the school administration office, which was the recommended standard procedure.

Instead, she would take the deposits home, where she would keep the cash. She would return the checks to the school, where she would alter her daily sales deposit slips at her register. Shipley would keep the cash processed through her register that day and document it as sales being paid with check. She would then place the stolen checks, which had already been processed, back into her drawer so it would balance for the day.

Shipley split the stolen proceeds with Cook. The two would use the money to gamble at The Meadows Casino with the understanding that any winnings would be split 50/50.

Cook said she knew the money Shipley was giving her was coming from stolen cafeteria money, but she said she “got caught up in the thrill of it all,” according to Gavrish’s report.

Cook said the two would plans trips to the casino when Shipley would tell her she had “extra money.”

Police began investigating the theft after being contacted by Charleroi Superintendent Brad Ferko, who related an an audit determined the cafeteria was short $93,987. On Nov. 12, police met with Shipley, informing her of the pending criminal charges. At that time, Shipley admitted to stealing the money and provided details on how shestolen it. She also admitted to sharing the money with Cook and said that the two women spent almost, if not, all of the money at the casino.

Cook was charged a month later.

Meanwhile, police obtained a search warrant and presented it to The Meadows requesting Players Club information for the women during that time frame. The results showed that combined the women’s “coin in play” was $350,482.

Both women declined comment following their separate arraignments on the charges against them.

However, Shipley’s attorney, Raymond Amatangelo, said his client is a “good lady” who has been a lifelong resident of the Charleroi area.

“She has some problems,” said Amatangelo, adding Shipley is receiving treatment for those problems and is attending Gamblers Anonymous. “She’s extremely remorseful.”

Shipley is the mother of two children, both of whom attend Charleroi schools, he said.

Cook was unrepresented at the arraignment.

Hopkins set a prelminary hearing for both women at 10 a.m. Feb. 25.

Linda Metz has been with the Observer-Reporter since 2000, covering Washington County courts and politics, as well as the city of Washington. She previously was employed by the Tribune Review. She is a graduate of Point Park College, now a university, in Pittsburgh.

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