Ex-Charleroi Area cafeteria workers face theft charges
Two former Charleroi Area School District cafeteria employees are accused of stealing more than $93,000 in student lunch money and gambling it away at a casino.
Stacy Lee Shipley, 50, of 301 Meadow Ave., and Sheila Ann Cook, 49, of 1112 Lincoln Ave., both of Charleroi, were arraigned Thursday morning by Charleroi Magisterial District Judge Larry Hopkins on charges related to the theft of cafeteria funds from the high school/middle school over a two-year period.
Shipley was charged with theft by unlawful taking or disposition, dealing in the proceeds of unlawful activities, theft by failure to make the required disposition of funds, and forgery.
Cook was charged with criminal conspiracy, dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities and receiving stolen property.
The investigation began Nov. 2 when district business manager Crystal Zahand and former food service director Andy Bergman told Superintendent Dr. Brad Ferko about discrepancies in cafeteria financial records.
Ferko contacted Washington County District Attorney Gene Vittone, who triggered an investigation by state Trooper Matthew P. Gavrish of the Belle Vernon barracks.
According to an affidavit of probable cause filed by Gavrish, a forensic audit conducted by accountant Thomas DeMillion confirmed that $93,987.36 had been stolen from the cafeteria account from Aug. 1, 2010, through Oct. 29.
Shipley was in charge of daily deposits from cafeteria sales. Instead of putting the money in the school safe or administration office, which was standard procedure, she took the cash home for her own “personal use,” according to the affidavit.
Shipley would then allegedly bring checks from the stolen deposit back to the school and alter daily sales at her register.
Police claim she would keep cash processed through her register that day and document it as if the sales were paid with a check, according to the affidavit.
Shipley then placed the stolen checks – which had already been processed – back into her drawer so it would balance for the day, police claim.
According to the affidavit, Cook was aware Shipley was stealing money.
The women used the money to gamble at The Meadows Racetrack & Casino in North Strabane Township – with the “understanding that anything that either would win would split 50-50,” according to the affidavit.
Police allege that at the casino, Shipley would routinely give Cook $100 to $300 with which to gamble.
They planned trips to The Meadows whenever Shipley told Cook she had “extra money,” which meant more money had been taken from the cafeteria, according to the affidavit.
Shipley allegedly admitted to the thefts Nov. 21 after being questioned by Gavrish. She said she spent all, or nearly all, of the money at The Meadows. Shipley resigned from her job in December.
On Dec. 28, Gavrish interviewed Cook, who allegedly admitted to the thefts and gambling. Cook told Gavrish she “just got caught up in the thrill of it all.”
On Dec. 13, state police served a search warrant at The Meadows requesting Players Club information from the time of the alleged thefts.
The search showed that the women spent $350,482.95 at the Meadows over a two-year period. That amount includes money wagered, complimentary food and beverages and other rewards they received, records indicate.
Following Shipley's arraignment, defense attorney Ray Amatangelo said his client is “very remorseful,” and is seeking treatment for a gambling addiction.
She had worked for the district for several years, he said.
“She's a good lady and a lifelong resident of Charleroi. She has two kids in the district,” Amatangelo said. “She is acknowledging responsibility and recognizes she has a gambling addiction.”
He said Shipley has been attending Gamblers Anonymous meetings for about three months.
Cook, who did not have an attorney with her at her arraignment, declined comment afterward.
Hopkins released both women, each on $50,000 unsecured bond, and scheduled preliminary hearings for 10 a.m. Feb. 25.
Ferko recently said the stolen money will not affect student accounts and that parents would receive full credit for money sent in for meals.
Stacy Wolford is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-684-2640 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Ringgold OKs teacher deal, eyes buildings
- Police: Man jailed for throwing girl, 9, as she defended her mother
- Mon Valley C of C plans awards event
- Retirement requires thinking far ahead
- Retail theft suspect takes off, leaves baby at Rostraver Township Walmart
- Dedicated California educator Hasbrouck dead at 62
- Fallowfield plans meeting to reveal results of studies
- Artists paint the town in anticipation of annual Monessen exhibit
- Minerd named AD at California Area High School
- Mon Valley athletes look for continued collegiate success
- Valley men accused of burglary in Charleroi