Former Cecil police chief charged with stealing from department to gamble

March 18, 2014
Former Cecil Township police Chief John Pushak was charged Tuesday with theft and accused of taking more than $10,000 from a special investigations bank account to gamble. - Observer-Reporter Order a Print

The former police chief in Cecil Township was charged Tuesday with theft and accused of siphoning more than $10,000 from a special investigations bank account to gamble at two area casinos while he was still employed with the police department.

A member of the state police organized crime task force also charged John Thomas Pushak, 64, of Cecil, Tuesday with misapplying government funds between January 2010 and January 2013 to gamble at The Meadows Racetrack and Casino in North Strabane Township and Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh, court records show.

Pushak, whose career spanned 38 years in the Cecil police department, resigned in February 2013 after the allegations surfaced in a special audit of a federal property account created in 2009 with money from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the affidavit indicates.

Trooper David Bayer, who arrested Pushak, stated in the affidavit Pushak confessed when questioned Dec. 11 to mismanaging the account and using the money to gamble when his personal debit and credit cards were at their limits.

The nature of the allegations became public in late December when the Observer-Reporter asked the Washington County clerk of courts to unseal various criminal records and found the affidavit accompanying Bayer’s application for a search warrant to view the special Cecil audit conducted by Cypher & Cypher Certified Accountants of Canonsburg.

At the time, the record alleged Pushak was linked to $3,000 in discrepancies in 2012 from the account he managed solely.

The account carried stipulations that the money could only be used by the township police department to further drug investigations or purchase necessary equipment.

Bayer accused Pushak of using the account’s debit card to make 31 disbursements that were not related to drug cases.

Pushak since has returned all of the money to the federal account, the record shows.

He is free on recognizance bond set Tuesday morning by Senior District Judge Jay Dutton.

Washington County District Attorney Eugene Vittone said he could not comment on the case until after Pushak has a preliminary hearing, which has been scheduled for May 1 before Dutton.

Pushak, of 11 Windcrest Drive, could not be reached Tuesday evening. His attorney, Thomas W. Brown of Carnegie, did not return a message.

Scott Beveridge is a North Charleroi native who has lived most of his life in nearby Rostraver Township. He is a general assignments reporter focusing on investigative journalism and writing stories about the mid-Mon Valley. He has a bachelor's degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master's from Duquesne University. Scott spent three weeks in Vietnam in 2004 as a foreign correspondent under an International Center for Journalists fellowship.

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