Lehigh Valley

Gun club caretaker allegedly fleeces club, members out of thousands

She spent the money on expenses, gambling

U. MT. BETHEL TWP., Pa. - Investigators allege that the woman accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from elderly friends and a Slate Belt gun club concocted a fake accounting firm and state investigator in an effort to cover her tracks.

Authorities charged Lisa A. Shafer with more than two dozen counts of theft and forgery for allegedly swindling more than $400,000 from the Pocono Slate Belt Shooting Association in Upper Mount Bethel Township and members she met there, while living and working on club grounds. The money reportedly went toward personnel expenses and gambling.

The case went before a grand jury to investigate the thefts that took place over a roughly four-year period. District Judge Alicia Zito arraigned the 50-year-old former Wind Gap resident Thursday, setting bail at $50,000.

The Pocono Slate Belt Shooting Association owns hundreds of acres in Upper Mount Bethel that also include a club house with a kitchen and a home where the property caretaker has traditionally lived, according to the lengthy criminal complaint. Lisa Shafer and her husband became caretakers in 2008. He maintained the grounds, and she ran the kitchen.

As the couple became more active in the club, Shafer gained access to the club’s accounts and suspicions began to grow about missing money, according to court records. When a new club president took over in 2016, he allegedly found “numerous unexplainable checks” made payable to Shafer from the club’s accounts.

She was called to testify before a grand jury in May 2017.

In 2012, Shafer allegedly told club members that an agent with the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue was investigating the club. She also presented a letter from a Monroe County accounting firm outlining the alleged investigation and praising Shafer for helping to resolve the club’s financial issues.

Investigators would later discover that Shafer allegedly made up the state revenue agent and investigation and concocted the accounting firm, CPA and letter to the gun club.

Authorities said the club contracted with an Illinois company that collected lead shot from the property, an agreement that paid the gun club more than $98,000. Court records indicate that Shafer wrote herself 29 checks between Sept. 20, 2013, and Nov. 24, 2013, totaling $75,707.

She testified to the grand jury that she had taken the lead reclamation money for gambling and personal use. “She advised she had free rein, and at one point she just felt like it was hers and it got out of control,” according to records.

Shafer became friendly with several club members, and investigators allege she began fleecing them for tens of thousands of dollars.

Shafer allegedly convinced Peter Gheller to invest with her investment firm, which happened to have the same name as the fictitious accounting firm she created. His first $5,000 investment netted him $10,554 that were paid in checks from the same banks where the club held its accounts.

He reportedly invested another $60,000 and never received another dividend check. Investigators found that phone numbers purported to belong to contacts at the investment firm belonged to other people.

Shafer testified Gheller gave her $70,000 to $75,000.

John Duvall, a widower, met Shafer while playing bingo at a local gun club. She initially asked Duvall for $17,000 for attorney’s fees. He then reportedly turned over $23,000.

Authorities said Duvall netted $163,000 from selling his house in August 2015. The first withdrawal from his account was made three days after the profit was deposited, and records show withdrawals that included $60,000, $21,000, $38,000 and nearly $7,500.

The money market account in Duvall and Shafer’s names totaled $26 in January 2016.

Shafer allegedly convinced Patrick Donahue to invest in a two-year scheme to re-sell shotgun shells and other supplies from a sporting goods company that was reportedly going out of business. Donahue’s initial investment over the first five weeks totaled nearly $32,500, according to records.

Shafer allegedly told Donahue she had an ATF license to sell ammunition and there was an insurance policy to protect the investment. He lost an estimated an $28,789.

Investigators said she used a club member’s credit card to make $15,929 in fraudulent purchases, stole about $42,000 from another member, used the credit card of a member’s mother to make a $6,228 fraudulent purchase and defrauded Nationwide Insurance of nearly $29,000 by filing a false claim for damaged traps.

Investigators said they learned Shafer was a frequent gambler at Mt. Airy Casino in Monroe County.

Authorities charged Shafer with eight counts of theft by deception, seven counts of receiving stolen property, five counts of criminal use of a communication device, two counts each of forgery and access device fraud and single counts of filing a false insurance claim and unlawful use of a computer.

She failed to post bail and was sent to Northampton County Prison to await a preliminary hearing tentatively scheduled for March 29.

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