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A New Castle teacher accused of stealing from the teachers union bank account was arrested Thursday after school.

Lawrence County District Attorney detectives, who had a warrant for his arrest, pulled over Charles Farris Jr., 64, of 912 Adams St., in his eastbound vehicle that afternoon on Route 422. He was taken into custody and arraigned on multiple felony charges around 4 p.m. in Ellwood City, before District Judge Jerry G. Cartwright, who set a $50,000 unsecured bond.

Unsecured means he was released but if he fails to show for his court proceedings, he will be required to pay the entire amount.

The district attorney's office filed six counts of theft and five counts of access device fraud against Farris earlier Thursday afternoon in a case that involved the reported misspending of $35,887.

Farris, the former president of the New Castle Federation of Teachers Local 3975, is accused of using the union's debit card to spend that amount on personal purchases and expenses between Jan. 1, 2015 and Sept. 9, 2019, according to a criminal complaint.

Investigators say Farris made 300 unauthorized debit purchases from the federation’s bank account during that time frame, according to the court paperwork. The charges follow a year-long investigation into the allegations against him by teacher's union members.

Farris is employed as a grade school physical education teacher in the New Castle Area School District, with a current salary of $97,512 plus benefits. Information was not available as to whether he has been suspended from his job. District Superintendent Debbie DeBlasio declined comment on his employment status Thursday as a result of the charges, saying it is a personnel matter.

The spending and debit card expenses are listed in detail in the 37-page criminal complaint. The investigation began when a new board member of the teachers’ union alerted the district attorney’s office on Sept. 9 last year of a suspected theft. When new trustees took over in May of 2019, they reviewed financial statements and noticed questionable transactions from the teachers’ union bank accounts, the paperwork states.

The district attorney’s office concluded in the court documents that Farris committed theft and access device fraud between 2015 and 2019 when he used the teachers’ union debit card for those unauthorized transactions, deemed to be personal expenses, logged at various retail vendors in various states for expenses that included, but were not limited to: groceries, restaurants, casinos, professional sporting events, gift cards, hotel rooms, fuel and an oil change for his Mercedes Benz while he was traveling through Arlington, Virginia. The union's board of trustees determined that most of the restaurant purchases and the department store expenditures were not authorized and had nothing to do with union business, the document says.

The document also states that Farris received a check from union treasurer Nick Marmo for $4,961 without providing legitimate reimbursement documentation to justify purchases made but never approved or authorized by the members.

dwachter@ncnewsonline.com

Reporter

Debbie's been a journalist at the New Castle News since 1978, and covers county government, police and fire, New Castle schools, environment and various other realms. She also writes features, takes photos and video and copy edits.

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