New Castle News

December 23, 2013

Judge dismisses Santillo request

By Staff
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE —

A judge dismissed a post-conviction request from a man convicted of stealing more than $400,000 from St. Vitus Church.
Lawrence County Judge John W. Hodge dismissed the post-conviction collateral relief request from August N. Santillo when neither the former Mahoningtown resident nor his attorney, Ross T. Smith of Canfield, Ohio, failed to appear for yesterday’s hearing.
Hodge noted the petition had been filed, amended and supplemented and the hearing had been scheduled in October. Both Santillo, who is on parole, and his attorney had been notified, the judge added.
Post-conviction relief is a general term related to appeals of criminal convictions, which may include release, new trial or modification of sentence.
With the dismissal of the petition, Hodge said, he considers the case closed.
Santillo, 55, was arrested Jan. 22, 2009, and his wife, Kimberly, 52, was arrested March 13, 2009. They were charged with embezzling more than $400,000 from St. Vitus Church between May 1, 2001, and Aug. 26, 2008.
Kimberly Santillo had been a church secretary and bookkeeper whose duties included making deposits and opening mail that included donations. August Santillo coordinated the scrips program, a fundraiser for the school. In that capacity, he was responsible for the Giant Eagle gift card program and other fundraisers.
On Aug. 11, 2010, Santillo pleaded guilty to one count of theft by unlawful taking and one count of theft by deception.
In November 2010, he was sentenced to serve 12 to 24 months on the theft by unlawful taking charge and 18 to 36 months on the theft by deception charge. The sentences were to be served consecutively in a state correctional facility.
He was released on parole in May.
His wife had pleaded guilty to theft by deception and criminal conspiracy to engage in theft. She was sentenced to serve nine to 18 months in a state correctional facility. She also has been paroled.
The Santillos had were ordered to pay costs of prosecution and make restitution of $471,562.65 to St. Vitus Church and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh.
Toward the restitution, the couple’s assets — valued at $204,565, including their house at 404 W. Clayton St., three cars and bank accounts — were ordered to be forfeited.
While in prison, Santillo filed post-conviction relief petitions maintaining he had had ineffective legal counsel.
In court documents, he stated he had not understood when entering his guilty plea that he would be going to jail and has asked for a new trial.
Attending yesterday’s hearing were Gregory J. Simatic, a deputy attorney general from Pittsburgh, and attorneys David S. Shrager and Stanton D. Levenson, also both of Pittsburgh. Both had represented Santillo — Shrager from April 2009 until August 2010, and Levenson from August 2010 until June 2011.
Both were present to dispute Santillo’s claim they had provided ineffective counsel.
Santillo, who represented himself in the post-conviction filings, had been represented by court-appointed attorney Linda Crable from July 2011 through August 2012.