A Neshannock Township woman is facing more than 2,000 criminal charges for misusing a Pennsylvania American Water Co. credit card for personal use while she worked there, Shenango Township police say.
A police investigator filed the charges Monday against Heather Dawn Cook, 49, of 3241 Greentree Circle. They include 754 counts of theft by deception, 754 counts of access device fraud, 754 counts of receiving stolen property and one count of forgery. The incidence of credit card charges span various dates between 2015 and 2017, involving more than $106,000, according to a criminal compliant.
According to court papers, Cook was working as an operations specialist in the water company’s branch office at 2736 Ellwood Road when the reported expenses were charged.
A supervisor in the department reported to the police that she discovered numerous transactions on the company’s credit card account that were not business functions, including charges from restaurants, tanning salons and retail businesses. She explained that the transactions all were less than $75 so receipts would not have to be submitted to the company, per Pennsylvania American Water’s policy, according to the report.
The paperwork indicates that multiple transactions were made when Cook was working, off work or on weekends, off on sick time or vacation or out of town, and even while she was suspended from her job when the suspected credit card misuse was reported.
The purchases included children’s bicycles and toys, DVDs, men’s clothing and toiletries, gift cards and many other items. Under corporate guidelines, employees are not allowed to purchase gift cards.
The water company terminated the credit card on Aug. 30, 2017. Cook was fired from her job on Sept. 15, 2017, via telephone, the court papers state.
Police reported that they interviewed the company superintendent who approved the credit card bills who said he did not thoroughly review the credit card statements before approving them. He said he has never reviewed the backup receipts. He also told investigators that he had given Cook permission to buy a dress and shoes that she reportedly had ruined on the job, and to use the credit card for those purchases in October, 2016. He said he also had told her on occasion to buy dinner for herself and her family on the credit card if she had done a lot of work or a good job on a project, the court papers state.
“This is not permitted per company policy,” the complaint states.
Cook is to be sent a summons to appear in Central Court, tentatively on Feb. 26, for her preliminary hearing.