State Supreme Court to hear Armstrong County woman’s restitution appeal
The state Supreme Court will consider an appeal by an Armstrong County woman who pleaded guilty to stealing more than $200,000 from three nonprofits but is fighting an order to pay restitution because the victims were organizations, not people.
Beverly Kaye Steffey’s attorney, Chuck Pascal of Leechburg, said a 2016 Supreme Court decision in a case involving former state Rep. Mike Veon should also apply to Steffey.
The Veon ruling allowed the former Democratic Whip who was accused of misusing grant money to avoid having to pay $136,000 in restitution because the state Department of Community and Economic Development could not be considered a crime victim as a so-called nonhuman entity.
Steffey, 65, of Kittanning, pleaded guilty in 2017 to theft and forgery and was ordered to pay about $129,000 in restitution to the Progressive Workshop, $83,000 to the Allegheny Valley Land Trust and $6,000 to the Armstrong County Conservancy.
The state Superior Court upheld the order to pay restitution last August, but the Supreme Court agreed this week to consider Steffey’s appeal.
After the Veon ruling, state lawmakers passed legislation deeming that entities including nonprofits and government agencies would be eligible for restitution. Gov. Tom Wolf signed it into law last October.
Pascal said he thinks the nonhuman entity argument should apply in Steffey’s case because her misappropriations of money started in 2010 and ended before the legislation was signed into law.
Pascal said there is “definite hole in the statute” that should be addressed by the state’s high court.
“(The case involving) Veon raised a lot of questions,” Armstrong County District Attorney Katie Charlton said before adding that she believes restitution should be paid in the Steffey case. “Here, the victims were charities.”
Pascal said it could be months before the matter is cleared up.
“There is no briefing schedule yet. When we get that, then the Commonwealth will have time to file a brief and then the (Supreme Court) will schedule arguments,” he said.
Chuck Biedka is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chuck at 724-226-4711, email@example.com or via Twitter .