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Mom accused of stealing

| Saturday, Dec. 31, 2005, 12:00 p.m.

The mother of a Taylor Allderdice hockey player is accused of stealing nearly $9,000 from three athletic associations, causing at least one of the organizations to raise fees for parents of players.

Jean Rigby Zupanek, 46, of Overbrook, was arrested Thursday on six counts of theft, according to a criminal complaint.

Zupanek served as treasurer for the Taylor Allderdice Hockey Association, the Carmalt Academy of Science and Technology and the Overbrook Athletic Association, police said.

From July 2004 to January 2005, Zupanek wrote more than a dozen checks to "cash'' and used the money to pay for her son's hockey team fees and to buy Giant Eagle gift cards. She also transferred money from one organization's account to another, in an attempt to cover up the thefts, according to the criminal complaint.

Mark Sirocca, president of the Taylor Allderdice association, said the organization had to raise the fees several hundred dollars after losing the money.

"It's just terrible,'' Sirocca said. "We had to raise the fees for the players, and we have kids that couldn't come back and play this year because their parents couldn't afford to pay the money. We're really in the hole because of this. It's a real shame.''

Zupanek admitted to investigators that she took money from each of the accounts and left invoices unpaid for fundraising items, ice hockey time and referee fees. She said she was "sick and confused'' after suffering an illness and undergoing a liver transplant in July, and couldn't remember what she was doing.

Zupanek couldn't be reached for comment Friday. It was unclear whether she was released after her arrest.

Investigators said Zupanek wrote checks from the Taylor Allderdice Hockey Association account to "cash.'' Zupanek told Sirocca and the other association board members that she used the money to buy money orders to pay for things the teams needed, but Sirocca said he began to get unpaid bill notices from companies that Zupanek claimed she had paid.

When Sirocca confronted Zupanek about the missing funds, Zupanek told him she would sell property owned by her husband to pay back the association. She later admitted writing checks from the Carmalt account and depositing that money into the Taylor Allderdice account in an attempt to pay back the cash, according to the complaint.

Zupanek also ordered 50 gift cards worth $2,500 from Giant Eagle using the Taylor Allderdice Hockey Association name, but never paid the invoice for the cards. The cards were a fundraising item and the money collected from selling them was supposed to first pay Giant Eagle for their value, and then buy items the organization needed, the complaint states.

Giant Eagle loss prevention officers found that Zupanek redeemed 22 of the gift cards herself, instead of using them as part of the fundraiser.

Zupanek also is accused of writing two checks for cash totalling $1,700 from the Overbrook Athletic Association account and depositing that money into the Taylor Allderdice account. She told parents with the Overbrook association that the checks were written to cover referee fees.

When investigators asked Zupanek why she continued to serve as treasurer if she wasn't feeling well, she said she was afraid to admit she couldn't handle her duties.

Sirocca said the Taylor Allderdice association, which has 18 players, is trying to figure out how to replace the missing money.

"I'm really disgusted by all this, but we'll make it through one way or the other,'' he said.

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