The former secretary-treasurer of Taylorstown Volunteer Fire Company has been charged by state police with felony theft for allegedly stealing almost $30,300 from the department’s coffers over a nearly three-year period, the second time in recent years that an official of the organization has been accused of stealing large sums from the department.
Teri Lynn Joyce, 49, of 346 Reese Road, Buffalo Township, is accused of writing 59 checks totaling $28,233.07 from the fire company account to herself. She also is accused of executing seven additional transactions from the department’s account for $2,063.34 to pay her Verizon and West Penn Power bills. Police allege these transactions happened between June 1, 2009, and Jan. 13, 2013.
Joyce allegedly transferred $26,739.19 from the department’s relief association account into the fire company’s general account to replace the money she had taken, police said. This action facilitated the misrepresentation of state aid funds as determined by the state auditor general’s office. The attorney general’s office notified the department last month that it failed to adequately document more than $75,000 in expenditures from the relief fund between 2008 and 2012. State law is specific as to how the relief money can be used by a fire department.
Trooper David Vanderaar, who filed the charges against Joyce, said the audit discovered that money from the fire relief fund had been dispersed to the department’s general account. An external audit then found that some of the expenses were potentially unauthorized. The matter was then referred to state police.
Vanderaar said that Joyce apparently wrote checks to herself, claiming she was reimbursing herself for fire department expenses. The trooper also said that Joyce felt she should be compensated for her duties.
“Unfortunately, we run into this frequently. This is what can happen when you bring in a large amount of money, mostly in cash. There is the possibility of theft going unnoticed,” Vanderaar said Wednesday. “It is incumbent that the officers and members keep a close watch on the accounts. They need to hold each other mutually accountable.”
The charge was sent by summons from the office of District Judge Ethan Ward. A preliminary hearing is set for Jan. 7 before Ward.
It’s the second time in the past decade a high-ranking Taylorstown fire official has been accused of stealing. Former chief and secretary-treasurer William Raymond McDonough of Claysville pleaded guilty to theft and receiving stolen property in April 2008 after he stole $50,000 from the company in a three-year span. He was given probation after paying back the money to the fire company.