Lehigh Valley

Bethlehem Twp. streetlight scammer will not pay restitution

BETHLEHEM TWP., Pa. - A Pennsylvania court has ruled that a businessman who bilked Bethlehem Township out of more than $800,000 in a streetlight scheme does not have to pay the money back.

Back in 2013 business partners Robert Kearns and Patrick McLaine were sentenced to jail and ordered to pay restitution.

Investigators said the men made a deal to save the township money on street lights but instead pocketed $832,000 in taxpayer dollars.

On Friday, the Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled in favor of an appeal of the restitution filed by Kearns.

The court said in a written ruling that restitution cannot be ordered because Bethlehem Township does not meet the definition of an "individual victim" as set forth by state law.

The attorney for Robert Kearns said the Superior Court showed "courage" in "striking down illegal restitution."

He said in a statement:

"The taxpayers of Bethlehem Township will not be pleased. However, the court strictly interpreted a state statute leading to the correct result. It is now up to the state legislature to change the law."

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