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Former Delmont secretary-treasurer charged with theft of $43,579

November 10, 2018

When a longtime Delmont secretary-treasurer in February used a borough-issued check to pay a $221 fine for running a red light in Murrysville, the transaction raised a court clerk’s suspicions.

Borough police and Westmoreland County detectives ended an eight-month investigation by accusing Karen L. Shola, 67, of spending nearly $44,000 of taxpayers’ money on personal expenses since January 2012.

Shola, who lives in Pittsburgh, resigned from her borough position in April after working nearly 14 years and earning $33,140 annually, according to borough records.

She was arraigned Tuesday before Export District Judge Charles Conway on charges of theft, receiving stolen property, theft by failure to make required disposition of funds, misapplying entrusted government funds, dealing in unlawful proceeds and forgery.

It was the same office where things for Shola began to unravel last year, according to court documents.

One of Conway’s clerks notified Delmont officials when Shola paid the traffic ticket with a borough check. An investigation immediately ensued.

“When borough police investigated, they found the check needed two signatures, and they discovered she forged the signature of council President Andy Shissler,” county Detective Frank Galilei said.

In total, investigators said, Shola unlawfully spent $43,579 over nearly seven years.

According to an audit of borough accounts, Shola, formerly of Kiski Township in Armstrong County, spent the money on personal items, including her son’s utility bills, office decorations, catalog shopping and background checks on people via Truthfinder.com, according to court documents.

“It was further discovered that Ms. Shola issued 36 checks to pay the outstanding credit card bills,” investigators reported. “It was learned that each check issued contained a forged signature of either the current or past council presidents.”

T. J. Klobucar, Delmont’s police chief, reported in court documents that Shola admitted to forging the signature of Shissler to pay the traffic citation. She subsequently paid the fine using money from a personal account, according to records.

Shola was accompanied to court by attorney Phillip P. DiLucente of Pittsburgh. She did not comment. DiLucente told the judge that Shola is cooperating with investigators.

She was released on $50,000 unsecured bond. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Nov. 13.

After Shola’s brief court appearance, DiLucente said he and his staff are reviewing the allegations.

“I want to stress, though, that this was a woman who was heavily medicated for a good period while working for the borough and was a person who was many times in a very confused state ... very stressed out,” DiLucente said. “She had lost her husband, and right now we’re trying to get our arms around information in the complaint.”

DiLucente added, “When you’re under the influence of medication, sometimes you do not think too clearly.”

Neither Shissler nor Mayor Alyce Urban could be reached for comment. Klobucar, who attended the arraignment, declined to comment.

The borough has a population of 2,584 residents and an annual budget of $1 million.

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