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Masontown councilwoman charged in $1,600 theft

| Monday, Aug. 11, 2014, 4:04 p.m.

A Masontown councilwoman is accused of taking $1,610 from a community nonprofit while serving as its treasurer, according to investigators.

Kim M. Essig, 54, is facing several misdemeanor counts in connection with the alleged theft and doctoring of bank statements for Masontown Matters.

Essig referred questions to attorney Simon John of Uniontown. John declined to comment.

Officials with Masontown Matters raised concerns to police in January that Essig may be involved in a theft and altering of a bank statement, according to a criminal complaint filed Monday by Fayette County Detective Steven Kontaxes. Essig was treasurer for two years.

Investigators found that $1,610 was missing from Masontown Matters accounts, the complaint states.

A July 2012 check for $1,500 was made payable to cash. Half of the amount was used to pay organizational expenses, “while the remaining amount of $750 is missing,” Kontaxes wrote.

A check dated November 2012 for $860 was made payable to cash and a note on the memo line indicated that the funds were to be transferred to a different account belonging to the nonprofit, Kontaxes wrote.

“This investigation determined that the check was cashed and the funds were not transferred to the general account as required,” the complaint states.

Essig is accused of altering a bank statement to conceal a $500 November 2013 check and another deposit of $500 two months later.

In a June interview with investigators, Essig said she sent the statement to an out-of-state friend for alterations before presenting it to the Masontown Matters board of directors.

“Essig said she did this because she did not want that president of the organization to know that there was money missing from the bank account,” Kontaxes wrote in the complaint. “Essig said that she returned the $500 to the bank account and did not take any other money from the account.”

Kontaxes could not be reached Monday afternoon.

Masontown Matters was formed several years ago to revitalize the borough's downtown area and to hold events for children, said group president Kay Rendina.

The group is working on setting up a business incubator, she said.

Funds come mostly through donations, but the group has received some grants, said Rendina, who also serves on borough council.

She declined to comment on the charges, as did Mayor Toni Petrus.

Essig is facing three counts each of tampering with records and tampering with public records and two counts of theft by failure to make required disposition of funds received. A Sept. 23 preliminary hearing will be held before before District Judge Randy Abraham.

Essig was elected to council in 2011 and took her seat the following year, according to county election bureau information. Her term runs through the end of 2015.

Renatta Signorini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-837-5374 or rsignorini@tribweb.com

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