Judge OKs deal for tax collector who stole
By Mary Pickels
Published: Friday, Aug. 2, 2013, 7:33 p.m.
A Fayette County judge on Friday accepted a guilty plea from the former Fayette City tax collector and warned that a sentencing deal hinges on her making some payment on restitution for the money she stole while in office.
Joanne Marie Kushnar, 53, of Fayette City was charged by county detectives in January with stealing more than $50,000 owed to Fayette City Borough and Belle Vernon Area School District.
She was charged with two counts of theft and one count of receiving stolen property.
Common Pleas President Judge John F. Wagner Jr. told Kushnar that a sentence of five years' probation and restitution requires that she make restitution “or a substantial portion” by her October sentencing.
District Attorney Jack Heneks said after the hearing that if Kushnar does not make a satisfactory restitution effort by sentencing, she will face six to 23 months of intermediate punishment, in addition to being required to pay back the money and to serve the probation term.
Intermediate punishment can include house arrest.
“When are we going to know what the amount of restitution is?” Wagner asked Heneks.
Heneks said the exact number is still being determined, but the total amount stolen exceeds $50,000.
Kushnar, who served as the elected tax collector in Fayette City for a dozen years, is accused of exploiting flaws she discovered in the control system for tax collections.
County Controller Sean Lally's office noted discrepancies in a 2011 audit of Kushnar's accounts, prompting the investigation.
Kushnar failed to remit $33,900 of real estate taxes collected to Fayette City from 2008 to 2012, county detective Steven G. Kontaxes testified during a preliminary hearing in February.
An analysis by Belle Vernon Area's auditor showed a shortage of $18,600 for the July 2011-12 fiscal year, according to Kontaxes.
Kushnar was interviewed in November at the Perryopolis police station, where “she acknowledged that she did take cash from the trust fund bank account unlawfully,” Kontaxes said.
In a statement, Kushnar wrote in November: “It was up to me to deposit the money in the tax account and to pay the taxes to the county and borough. Some of the cash money did not get deposited in the account. I personally stole the money and used it for me personally to pay bills. ... I know that what I did was stealing the taxpayer money, which is wrong.”
Kushnar remains free on recognizance bond.
She faces sentencing before Wagner on Oct. 3.
Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or email@example.com.
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.
- Rural King Supply confirms store opening in Dunbar Township
- Uniontown man acquitted of rape charge
- Connellsville FRIENDS hosting book sale Saturday
- City seeks to join regional enterprise zone
- 2013 was a challenging year for Highlands Hospital
- Clinton Church of God to hold fish fries
- Connellsville Ministerial Association kicks off Lenten luncheons
- Perry Township over projected winter budget
- New name, new energy for Connellsville fitness studio
- Lemont Furnace man sought on drug charges
- Connellsville residents, business owners explore human rights panel