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Police: $5,000 taken to fuel habits

Freeland woman charged with withdrawing money from West Hazleton ambulance account.

Screenock

WEST HAZLETON – The former treasurer of the borough ambulance association turned herself in Thursday on theft charges alleging she stole more than $5,000 in association funds to feed gambling and shopping addictions.

Cassandra Lee Screenock, 24, of 75 Highland St., Freeland, was charged with theft by failure to make required disposition of funds – a third-degree felony – and a violation of the Solicitation of Funds for Charitable Purposes Act – a first-degree misdemeanor.

According to court records: Robert Kramer, a West Hazleton Community Ambulance Association member, told police Chief Brian Buglio on Dec. 30 that Screenock had been using an association debit card to withdraw funds for personal use.

Theodore R. Laputka, the association’s chairman and current treasurer, said he learned in early September that a debit card had been issued to the association. After reviewing the checking account in early October, he realized money was missing.

Laputka, who described himself as the association “watchdog,” said he learned from the bank Screenock obtained a debit card without knowledge of the board and that the card was used for unauthorized cash withdrawals and purchases.

Laputka said Screenock told him she had mistakenly used the ambulance debit card instead of her own debit card. He said he had the association accounts frozen on Nov. 14 after he discovered more withdrawals.

At a meeting on Nov. 16, the association confronted Screenock about the money, and the board asked her to pay it back. Laputka said Screenock paid back $5,000 with a credit card transfer, using a credit card in her father’s name.

Laputka filed a report with the district attorney on Jan. 6 – the same day he received a personal check for $809 drawn on Screenock’s parents’ account. Police determined that $5,070 was misappropriated.

Screenock told police she had gambling and shopping addictions and that most of the cash was used to buy lottery tickets. She admitted to making 47 unauthorized cash withdrawals as well as purchases including gasoline, cigarettes, membership to an adult social networking Web site, video games and food.

Screenock was arraigned before District Judge Thomas Sharkey and released on $10,000 unsecured bail. Her preliminary hearing is set for 10 a.m. Jan. 29 in Central Court.

Buglio said Screenock was remorseful and needs counseling. He said nonprofits generally have poor checks and balances, and more than one person should oversee the accounting.

Visit www.timesleader.com to read the affidavit of probable cause.

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