Charleroi cafeteria workers headed to trial

February 26, 2013
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Katie Roupe/Observer-Reporter
Stacy Shipley, left, and Sheila Cook, both of Charleroi, leave court Monday after waiving their right to a preliminary hearing. Order a Print
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Katie Roupe/Observer-Reporter
Sheila Cook, 49 of Charleroi leaves court Monday after waiving her right to a preliminary hearing. Cook and Stacy Shipley are charged with stealing more than $93,000 in lunch money from Charleroi Area School District. Order a Print

Two former Charleroi Area School District cafeteria workers are headed to trial on charges they stole more than $93,000 in lunch money and gambled it away over a two-year span.

Stacy Lee Shipley, 50, and Sheila Ann Cook, 49, both of Charleroi, appeared before District Judge Larry Hopkins Monday and waived their cases to court after prosecutors agreed to withdraw the most serious charge against them.

Both women were originally charged with dealing with proceeds of criminal activity, a first-degree felony that carries a sentence to 9 to 16 months in jail, said Shipley’s attorney, Raymond Amatangelo.

Shipley is now charged with theft by unlawful taking, theft by failure to make required disposition of funds and forgery.

Cook is charged with criminal conspiracy to commit theft and receiving stolen property.

The women will remain free on $50,000 unsecured bond pending trial.

According to the criminal complaint filed by state police Trooper Matthew Gavrish, Shipley was responsible for handling the daily deposits for cafeteria sales at Charleroi High School-Middle School and took the deposits for her own personal use between Aug. 1, 2010, and Oct. 29, 2012.

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

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

Police alleged that Shipley split the stolen proceeds with Cook, and 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 funds, but she said she “got caught up in the thrill of it all,” according to Gavrish’s report.

Cook said the two would plan 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 reported that 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 she stole it, police said. She also allegedly admitted to sharing the money with Cook and said that the two women spent almost all, if not all, of the money at the casino.

Cook was charged a month later.

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

Both Amatangelo and Cook’s attorney, Russell Korner, a county assistant public defender, said their clients are remorseful for their actions.

Amatangelo also said Shipley, a lifelong resident of the Charleroi area with two children currently attending school in the district, has “stepped up to the plate” and “hasn’t tried to hide” anything from investigators. He said Shipley is attending Gambler’s Anonymous meetings and has placed her name on the list banning her from entry to The Meadows.

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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