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Ex-Seton Hill University administrator admits theft, police say

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Friday, Feb. 17, 2012

A former director of admissions at Seton Hill University in Greensburg used a university-issued credit card to buy groceries, gift cards and other personal items and stole nearly $30,000 over a 39-month period, police said.

Sherri D. Bett, 35, of 1 Oak St., Apt 1-B, Harrisville, Butler County, created bogus receipts on a university computer and forged employee signatures and expense reports while spending $29,934 between May 2008 and August 2011, Westmoreland County detectives alleged.

Bett faces a March 8 preliminary hearing before Greensburg District Judge James Albert on charges of theft by deception, forgery and access device fraud.

She admitted to committing the crimes, detectives said.

"I had no money to see my daughter and needed to buy her clothes for school, etc.," Bett wrote in one statement, according to an arrest warrant affidavit written by Detective Paul Burkey.

Bett told detectives, "I didn't have any money. It was so wrong."

Bett, who was hired in May 2007, was fired from her job, university officials said.

"Seton Hill University has been an active participant in the investigation of a theft by a former employee whose employment was immediately terminated after the facts were discovered by the university," officials said in an emailed statement. "The university continues to cooperate fully with local authorities."

University officials issued the credit card to Bett to use for gasoline purchases and overnight lodging expenses related to her job.

After making the personal purchases, Bett created bogus receipts, police said.

"The receipts appeared to have been printed on a piece of copy paper and then cut with scissors or some other item as the edges were not even and the paper used was not the typical paper used for receipts," the affidavit said.

University officials contacted detectives in August after discovering discrepancies.

Bett forged names of university officials on expense sheets, police said, and kept some advance money given to graduate students for recruiting trips by changing the students' receipts.

Authorities seized a university-owned computer, several thumb drives that store data and a digital recorder that Bett used.

The current director of admissions, who worked as assistant director under Bett, told university officials that Bett approached her in July and wanted to use her university-issued credit card because Bett "was maxing out" her card, according to the complaint.

At that time, Bett took all employees in the admission office to a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game and "spent a considerable amount of money on Pirate tickets, food and souvenirs," according to the affidavit.

Bett made donations to various organizations that university officials would not have approved, investigators said.

"In fact, the donations may have not been made but the money directed to Bett," Burkey wrote.

Bett is free on $30,000 unsecured bond after her arraignment Wednesday before Albert.

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