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Manown waives hearing

| Friday, Nov. 22, 2013, 12:16 a.m.

A Rostraver Township woman will face charges in Washington County Court for allegedly bilking an elderly woman out of nearly $35,000.

Lesley Manown, 44, of 212 Pleasant Valley Blvd., waived her right to a preliminary hearing Thursday on felony charges of theft by deception and theft by unlawful taking.

She had been scheduled to appear in front of Magisterial District Judge Mark Wilson in Monongahela.

Washington County detectives said Manown was working as at the now-closed First Federal Savings Bank in Donora when she allegedly coaxed an 81-year-old victim to sign numerous slips and two checks to withdraw the money from the victim's bank accounts.

Washington County Chief Detective Jim McElhaney said Manown told the victim she would use the money to retain an attorney in an effort to recover a vehicle that had been repossessed.

In February 2012, the bank launched an internal audit of the victim's accounts, and Manown resigned from her position shortly after the audit.

According to McElhaney, Manown admitted during an Oct. 22 interview she used some of the money to pay bills and make shopping purchases while stating she gave some to a couple that had been denied to a loan at her bank.

Vittone and McElhaney confirmed that Manown paid the victim back, but could not say whether the restitution would figure into any potential plea deal.

Manown's history could affect sentencing guidelines should Vittone's office choose to make an offer, Vittone said.

In September 2012, Rostraver Township police accused Manown of taking more than $18,000 from the Rostraver Township Cheer Association's bank account.

Most of the charges were dropped under the terms of a plea agreement in which she pleaded guilty to access device fraud—use of another's device without authorization.

Manown was sentenced to a year of probation and was forbidden to have contact with the cheer organization.

Manown's attorney, Christopher Nichols, said he was not comfortable “discussing the particulars of the case.”

Vittone and McElhaney declined to disclose the victim's identity because the victim is still “shaken.”

The victim was available Thursday in case she was needed to testify, but remained inside a car outside Wilson's office.

Manown also remained inside a vehicle in the parking lot and never entered Wilson's office. She remains free after posting $5,000 unsecured bond.

Vittone said he expected Manown's case to be resolved in January.

Vittone said his office issued a press release to see if any other victims would come forward considering (Manown) was a manager at the bank.

Financial exploitation of the elderly is a common practice, but only one in 44 cases is being reported, according to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Task Force.

Vittone said the reasons for lack of reporting include cognitive changes in the elderly, the fact that they know and trust the perpetrator or simple embarrassment.

He called financial exploitation, “The No. 1 abuse we see in senior citizens,” and encouraged anyone suspecting such activity to contact McElhaney at 724-228-6917 or the Southwestern Pennsylvania Area Agency on Aging in Charleroi at 724-489-808 or 1-800-537-2424.

“What they'll do is take a report, send somebody out to check things and keep the name of the person calling in confidential … that's under state law,” Vittone said. “We do get a good many of these cases.”

Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rbruni@tribweb.com or 724-684-2635.

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