Ex-township secretary/treasurer accused of stealing money

Loss calculated to be more than $81K, police say

UPPER BERN TWP., Pa. - A woman once tasked with safeguarding taxpayers' money now stands accused of pocketing thousands of dollars of it for herself.

Tonya Jeanelle Schaner, a former secretary/treasurer for Upper Bern Township, was arrested Thursday and charged with five felony counts, including theft by unlawful taking, theft by deception, and receiving stolen property.

"Since the beginning of January 2016, she had been taking funds and using them for personal use," said Trooper Megan Tornielli, Pennsylvania State Police.

PSP troopers said they began investigating a "significant loss in township funds" on March 8, exactly one month after Schaner's seven years of employment with the township came to an end.

"The Upper Bern Township supervisors were shocked by this betrayal of our trust," said Gretchen Sterns, the township's solicitor.

During her time on the job, Schaner had access to the township's bank and credit card accounts, police said.

"The Upper Bern Township solicitor had noticed some transactions that looked a little suspicious, looked into it and found out there were some purchases made at Lowe's for a kitchen cabinet and stuff like that not use for the township," Tornielli said.

An auditing firm hired by the township found "a multitude of unapproved transactions/falsification of credit memos" conducted by Schaner, police said. The auditor's report calculated the township's loss to be $81,115.70.

"I'd say that's a pretty damn good chunk of change," said township resident Gary Benjamin.

"When you start thinking you can get away with stuff like that that larger scale there's definitely a problem," said Anthony Marino, another township resident.

Schaner, 34, of Hamburg, was arraigned Thursday and released on $30,000 unsecured bail. She's due back in court for a preliminary hearing on May 30.

"The township is cooperating fully with law enforcement to bring swift and fair justice, and will use every legal means at our disposal to recover the taxpayers' money so that the township's operations and services continue as normal," Sterns said.

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