New Castle News

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July 12, 2014

County probing Shenango Township finances

NEW CASTLE — The Lawrence County district attorney’s office is investigating the possible theft of nearly a half-million dollars from Shenango Township.

According to court documents, township secretary/treasurer Brian Tanner allegedly wrote himself 133 checks totaling $231,678.68 from the sewer department’s general fund and deposited them in personal accounts in three different banks.

In addition, the documents allege, Tanner wrote 91 checks — also from the sewer account — to township auditor Deno DeLorenzo.

Those checks totaled $221,838.12, investigators allege. They claim DeLorenzo deposited the money into personal accounts in three or four different banks.

The 224 checks in question total $453,516.80. They allegedly were written between Jan. 1, 2011, and Dec. 31, 2013.

Information about the probe is contained in a search warrant request and affidavit of probable cause prepared by an investigator from the district attorney’s office.

As of Friday evening, no arrests had been made.

Attempts to reach Tanner early Friday afternoon were unsuccessful.

A trip to the township building around 2:30 p.m. Friday found the facility locked and apparently empty. The only signs of life were a maintenance man cutting grass, another in the garage and the county investigator, who was in the police department’s office.

He declined to talk to a reporter about the case.

Shenango Township Supervisor Albert D. Burick III also declined to comment on the situation Friday afternoon.

He also declined to discuss Tanner’s employment status with the township.

“Our solicitor told the supervisors not to make any public comment at this time,” he said, adding they would know more on Monday.

Louis Perrotta, Shenango’s solicitor, confirmed Friday night the district attorney’s office is investigating records of the township secretary/treasurer.

However, he noted he just had learned of the probe Friday morning adding it is on-going. As a result, Perrotta declined further comment “so as not to jeopardize the investigation.”

Attempts Friday to contact the other two supervisors — William Albertini and Russell Riley — were unsuccessful, as were efforts to contact DeLorenzo and Lawrence County District Attorney Joshua Lamancusa.

The court documents indicate the investigation stemmed from an audit of the township’s pension fund by Pennsylvania’s Department of the Auditor General’s Bureau of Municipal Pensions.

Noting Tanner’s salary is more than $57,000, the paperwork states checks written to him did not go through payroll and were not included in his yearly salary.

According to the court documents, Larry Herman, former supervisor chairman, told investigators two signatures were required on all township checks — Tanner’s, which was manual, and the chairman’s, which was a stamped signature.

Herman also told investigators DeLorenzo was responsible only for the township audit, the documents state, but he could not recall how much DeLorenzo was paid.

“It appears that payments made to the township secretary (Tanner) and possibly the township auditor (DeLorenzo) were not approved/authorized by the township supervisors,” the investigator noted.

Checks obtained during the probe were written by Tanner and stamped with the supervisor chairman’s signature, the investigator noted. This stamp, he said, “is held and solely used by the township secretary (Brian Tanner.)”

Based on information uncovered from 2011, ’12 and ’13, the investigator requested and received a search warrant for bank records of Jan. 1, 2006, through Dec. 31, 2010.

(Reporter Debbie Wachter contributed to this report.)

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