New Castle News

July 14, 2012

Former football coach, wife enter ARD program

Nancy Lowry
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Former New Castle football coach Frank Bongivengo and his wife , Karen, have been accepted into the Accelerated Rehabilitation Disposition program.

Frank Bongivengo, 47, will remain in the program for 30 days. Karen Bongivengo, 46, will remain in the program for six months and is required to make reimbursement of $850 to the New Castle youth football program during that time.

Lawrence County Judge Thomas M. Piccione, in accepting the couple into the program, said both will be required to observe rules and regulations of the program, which includes paying costs of prosecution and supervision fees.

Charges against the Bongivengos —  both of 114 E. Euclid Ave. — were amended yesterday to include one count of misappropriation of entrusted property. Charges of conspiracy and two counts of theft will not be prosecuted by the commonwealth,

A forgery charge that was initially included was dismissed at the couple’s preliminary hearing on Nov. 15, 2011.

The couple had been charged following a 17-month investigation by the state police into the books of the New Castle youth football program run by Frank Bongivengo, who was then the head football coach at New Castle High School. He has since resigned that position, but continues to teach within the school district.

That investigation raised questions involving transactions between the youth football program and the couple’s personal bank account and an allegation that $3,618 was missing from the account.

The ARD program, implemented in the 1980s, provides non-violent first-time offenders with an alternative to a criminal conviction. A defendant must apply for the program. The request is reviewed by the prosecution, which in this case was the office of attorney general.

Upon satisfactory completion of the program, the Bongivengos may apply to the court requesting that charges be dismissed and their records be cleared.

Factors considered include the defendant's background, the nature of the offense and effects on the victims. Then a decision is made if admission will be recommended to the courts.

In this instance, both “absolutely are qualified to enter the program,” according to senior deputy Attorney General Anthony J. Krastek.

He noted the non-violent nature of the crimes charged and that this is a first offense for both. In the case of Frank Bongivengo, Krastek said, he did not consider the man’s occupation when considering his eligibility. In the case of Karen Bongivengo, he said, her occupation and marital obligations were not considered.

Following the hearing, Krastek said the charges and totals were amended “based on our investigations to reflect the facts that we could prove” if the case went to court.

He added that ARD recommendations differed because the investigation indicated that Karen Bongivengo had access to deposits and that payment for their son’s spring trip to Florida and transportation expenses — the transactions questioned following the investigation — were all by Karen.

Defense attorneys were Dennis Elisco, representing Karen Bongivengo. John Bongivengo and Stephen Stallings of Pittsburgh represented Frank Bongivengo.

Stallings said completion of the ARD program will result in no conviction and no criminal record for the couple.

“This reflects what we have said from the start — that there was a small amount of money involved and there was never any criminal intent,” he said. “We’ve always been ready to make it whole.”

Stallings said after he became involved with the case, he ordered a “full, forensic audit of the account,” which was shared with the attorney general’s office.