Authorities charge Mt. Oliver chief with stealing $8,000 from police accounts
A Mt. Oliver police chief accused of stealing more than $8,000 from his department to pay his credit card, cellphone and utility bills told investigators “things in the borough were crazy” and he was “in over his head” when money went missing, court records show.
Detectives with the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office on Thursday charged Frank Mosesso, 47, of Bon Air with theft, forgery and misapplication of entrusted property. District Judge Richard King arraigned Mosesso and released him on his own recognizance.
Mosesso could not be reached for comment. His attorney, Bill Difenderfer, declined to comment.
Acting Mt. Oliver Chief Matt Juzwick said he hopes the charges against Mosesso will lift a cloud that has hung over the department.
“There's a lot more transparency now in the department than there ever has been,” Juzwick said. “Since all this has been brought to light, morale is a lot better.”
Juzwick spoke with FBI and DA officials last fall about police accounts at First National and Citizens banks. He said the accounts have been closed.
Mosesso is accused of using 14 checks from a Mt. Oliver police bank account to pay personal credit card bills, a Bill Me Later account, an $842 electric bill and a T-Mobile cellphone bill, according to the complaint. He told police the Bill Me Later payment might have been to buy Apple iPods, according to the complaint.
The checks, written between November 2006 and June 2011, total $3,323. Mosesso is accused also of writing nine checks made payable to cash that total $4,753.
Mosesso has been on paid leave with a shoulder injury since October 2012. Juzwick said many officers who worked under Mosesso have left the department.
Borough council President Billie Michener said Mosesso's contract expires at the end of the year, but council members will discuss his job status with a labor attorney. Michener declined to comment on the case.
As part of their inquiry, investigators interviewed Christine Secilia, who officials have said is a former Mt. Oliver police officer who was Mosesso's “girlfriend at one point in time.” Secilia worked in the department for nine years.
Authorities say Mosesso forged Secilia's signature on a check made out to a Capital One credit card and a debit transaction form in 2011. Secilia said the two were “not on good terms” at the time. She left the department in December 2011.
Secilia, who could not be reached, filed a federal lawsuit against the borough last year claiming that Mosesso sexually harassed her and that he submitted her resignation letter without her knowledge.
Secilia told investigators Mosesso wanted separate police department bank accounts because “he was upset that the borough's council had control of his department's money,” according to the criminal complaint.
“She stated that (Mosesso) did not think it was fair that the money received for fines and fees were going to the borough's general fund and he thought that the money should go directly to the police department for things like training,” the complaint states.
Mosesso told investigators that when he became chief in 2001, Martin Palma, the council president at the time, told him to open a police department checking account for money obtained through fees from the magistrate and Common Pleas Court.
Mosesso said that the money was for police equipment and training and that he would reimburse himself when he used his personal credit card.
Palma told investigators he did not authorize Mosesso to make withdrawals from police checking accounts.
“How all this came about, I have no idea,” said Palma, 82, of Whitehall, who left council in 2006. “I understand he started to make these personal withdrawals in November 2006. I have no idea who gave him permission to use this money.”
According to the complaint, when detectives asked Mosesso why he would reimburse himself when there was no legitimate law enforcement expense on his credit card, he replied, “If something is not right, I'll take responsibility for it.”
After one interview with investigators, Mosesso told a detective, “I'll pay restitution,” the complaint said.
In an interview with investigators, Diane Holzer, assistant borough secretary, said that in September 2005, Mosesso told her he would take responsibility for money the police department seized during investigations. After that, Holzer said she stopped keeping track of the account on her monthly financial reports. When she asked Mosesso for information about the accounts, he ignored her requests, the complaint said.
Margaret Harding is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8519 or firstname.lastname@example.org.