Friday, June 21, 2013

Seven sentenced in Bensalem School District theft ring in Pennsylvania

Four months after Bucks County authorities charged 20 people with being part of a decade long theft network that cost the Bensalem School District about $1 million, many of them will give back money and labor to the district under court order.

Seven of the 20 charged in the schemes, which included stealing buses and tires and clocking in no-show employees, were sentenced this week, according to Assistant District Attorney Robert James.

Ten more are to appear in court over the next several days, and the remaining three next month, James said.

The sentences for those who have pleaded include tens of thousands of dollars in restitution to the district, James said, and hundreds of hours of community service to be performed on school property, such as picking up trash or clearing weeds.

"Our focus of the investigation is to make sure everybody who is criminally liable for the theft on the taxpayers is held accountable," James said.

The charges detailed theft that continued for a decade. Facilities employees would order car parts, such as batteries, tires, or windshield wipers, then steal them and sell them to local businessmen, authorities said. Some in the group often met over breakfast, earning them the moniker "the Breakfast Club" from authorities.

The cover-up, authorities say, involved officials as high as the district's business manager, Jack Myers, a former Philadelphia School District employee who oversaw Bensalem's $100 million annual district budget. He is due in court next month, James said.

In February, Myers' attorney, Thomas Kenny, said he and Myers "categorically deny" that Myers knew about the thefts. A message left for Kenny Wednesday afternoon was not returned.

Authorities also alleged a separate scheme in which several employees who rarely showed up were clocked in and out of work by coworkers.

James called the schemes "brazen."

"It's amazing how it went on with nobody putting a stop to it," he said.

Two of those sentenced this week were ordered to prison but granted house arrest, James said. Anthony Ruggiero, a district employee who earned thousands of dollars in overtime he apparently did not work, will serve 10 to 23 months. Joseph Bound, a businessman who purchased stolen car parts from the district, will serve two to 23 months.

Ruggiero was also ordered to pay more than $40,000 in restitution, James said, and Bound, $90,000.

The others already sentenced - Martin Chappell, Elwyn Smith, Wilson Lopez, and Ronald Angle - owe at least 50


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