A former Harmony Township secretary is accused of stealing more than $190,000 from the township over the course of eight years.
Beaver County detectives have charged Lyla Swan, 57, of Elmer Street, with 17 counts of theft by failure to make required disposition of funds and eight counts of theft by deception.
The township eliminated the secretary position last year and didn’t contest when Swan filed for unemployment, officials said.
It was only after her departure that authorities determined cash totaling $190,020.63 was missing from four township accounts—the general fund, the sewer fund, the sewer construction fund, and petty cash, according to a criminal complaint filed Friday.
In December, Harmony Police Chief James Essek said he was notified by the township’s interim manager that money was missing. Doing a preliminary investigation, he spoke to Swan, who appeared nonchalant about the missing money.
According to a criminal complaint, Essek showed Swan discrepancies in the sewer fund where cash payments were not documented, and asked why she hadn’t recorded them. She answered “I don’t know.”
When Essek made it clear there was a possibility that several hundred thousand dollars were missing from the accounts, she replied “I know,” the complaint states.
Only Swan and her assistant, who had limited duties, had keys to the locked closet and locked metal cabinet where funds were kept, according to the complaint.
Essek interviewed the assistant secretary, who is also the sewer clerk. She denied taking any cash and stated that she delivered all checks and cash payments to Swan, who was ultimately responsible for properly documenting and safely depositing them in the correct bank accounts, the complaint states.
The complaint says that Swan was evasive with interim township manager Virginia Finnegan and auditors from Cottrill Arbutina, CPA, and not forthcoming with information, even refusing to meet in January and February while they were examining township financial records. This made them "suspicious of her actions," prompting them to notify authorities.
“Once it was determined that in fact money was not properly deposited, because of a possible conflict of interest, I requested the Beaver County detectives’ assistance to basically take over the investigation,” Essek told Ambridge Connection.
Swan deposited checks, but failed to deposit $20,251.24 in garbage collection fees; $10,694.39 in petty cash; and $150,000 in cash payments for sewer fees between January 2006 and July 2013, according to the complaint.
Swan also failed to deposit $9,075 in required payments for sewer tap-in fees from March 2007 to August 2007, according to court documents.