Former Avonmore secretary pleads guilty to theft of borough funds

Avonmore Borough’s former secretary pleaded guilty Friday to the theft of more than $ 54,000 in taxpayer funds.

Rebecca E. Steele, 46, worked for more than a decade as the secretary for the tiny Kiski Valley town when an audit in 2019 revealed large amounts of money had disappeared from borough coffers.

Steele pleaded guilty to felony charges of theft and tampering with public records. One count of receiving stolen property was dismissed. She will be sentenced in about three months by Common Pleas Court Judge Scott Mears.

Steele will remain free on a $ 10,000 unsecured bond as she awaits sentencing.

According to court records, borough officials first suspected Steele after that initial audit of Avonmore’s balance sheet from 2017 found that Steele used money from government accounts to pay personal utility bills and other household expenses. Subsequent audits for 2018 and 2019 determined she continued to use borough funds to pay personal expenses in those years.

“I’m guilty,” Steele said in court on Friday.

Police said Steele admitted to thefts when confronted with the allegations in 2019.

“I messed up. I took the money from the borough accounts, ”Steele told police. “I got behind in my bills after my husband was laid off from his job.”

Police said Steele initially made 47 unauthorized deposits totaling nearly $ 21,000. But additional audits determined thefts spanned over the three years and grew to more than $ 54,000.

About 990 people live in Avonmore, according to the latest US Census.

Cynthia Rupert, borough manager, said Friday the town’s annual budget averaged about $ 365,000 between 2017 through 2019.

“It was a relatively significant loss for us,” Rupert said. “We were not able to complete projects.”

Since Steele’s arrest, Avonmore officials have put additional controls in place to guard against future thefts. Rupert said all payments are checked by council members and require multiple officials to sign off on expenses.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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