West Brownsville tax collector accused of theft
Cindy L. Lacey was in tears as she was arraigned on charges alleging she stole tax dollars she was collecting for West Brownsville borough.
But Magisterial District Judge Joshua Kanalis admittedly sent a message when he set bond at $115,000 – nearly equal to the amount Lacey is accused of stealing from the borough from 2005 to 2012.
“That's quite a sum of money,” Kanalis said of the alleged theft.
“I figured that's what the bond should be.”
Lacy, 58, of 619 River St., West Brownsville, was charged with theft by failure to make required disposition of funds received, a felony of the third degree. The charges filed Wednesday allege Lacey stole $115,940.36 over six years.
Lacey has served as tax collector in West Brownsville since 2002.
The charges were the result of an investigation by Washington County detectives, county District Attorney Gene Vittone said.
According to the affidavit of probable cause, West Brownsville officials contacted Vittone's office on Sept. 21 “due to a pattern of diminishing funds in their annual budget over the past several years.”
A private accounting firm conducted an audit after the theft was uncovered.
“West Brownsville officials contacted us early on,” Vittone said. “We made sure they got an audit to identify the loss.”
An investigation by county detective James A. McElhaney was conducted, leading to the charges.
According to the affidavit, Lacey was interviewed by McElhaney on Nov. 28 and admitted to using the stolen money “for her personal use.”
“Obviously, it's sad to see a situation where a public official abuses trust they've been given,” Vittone said. “I'm happy we're been able to bring this to conclusion.”
On Wednesday, Lacey waived her right to a preliminary hearing. She was remanded to the Washington county Correctional Facility.
Vittone applauded the bond set by Kanalis, noting, “It's nice to see that someone is taking a theft matter that seriously, especially when it involves a matter of public trust.”
Kanalis defended the bond amount he set.
“There's nothing unfair about that bond,” Kanalis said. “Her family asked about the bond. I thought that was fair bond.”
Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or firstname.lastname@example.org.