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Employee of East Dunkard Water Authority Faces Theft / Felony Charges

Theft of $22k from East Dunkard Water Authority

A longtime employee of the East Dunkard Water Authority is accused of stealing $22,472 from the agency. – Mike Jones/Observer-Reporter

Worker allegedly stole $22k from East Dunkard Water Authority

Read original article from Observer-Reporter

By Mike Jones January 8, 2016

DILLINER – A longtime employee of East Dunkard Water Authority is accused of stealing more than $22,000 from the agency.

Laura A. Pugh, 39, of Cheat Lake, W.Va., was arraigned Thursday on felony charges of theft and receiving stolen property after state police said she stole $22,472 in cash payments from the authority.

Pugh was suspended without pay Dec. 29, the authority’s solicitor Dennis Makel said Friday. She is free on $30,000 unsecured bond while awaiting her preliminary hearing before District Judge Lee Watson at 1 p.m. Jan. 14.

The authority first learned of a possible theft in May when it hired the Cypher & Cypher accounting firm to perform an audit on its 2014 records, which later revealed the overall thefts between April 2012 and April 2015, court documents indicate. The audit showed some of the cash payments that were recorded in the billing system were never deposited at the bank.

The audit revealed the largest sum of $10,522 was stolen in 2014. In addition, $2,014 was stolen in 2012, $6,322 was taken in 2013 and $3,613 was missing in the first four months of 2015. Investigators said they could not locate 43 deposit slips for the missing money.

Pugh, who was employed at the authority for more than 18 years, worked in customer billing and was required to record payments and prepare deposits that were to be taken to the bank, state police said.

Police said Pugh was the “sole person in charge of receiving cash payments” from customers, documenting them into a computerized spreadsheet and writing the deposit slips.

Police wrote in court documents that during an interview with investigators Sept. 15, Pugh admitted she is the only person to handle cash payments and that she “looks guilty for the missing money,” although she did not confess to the theft.

David Shrager, her Pittsburgh-based defense attorney, did not deny that money is missing, but said his client is being falsely accused.

“I’m still continuing my investigation, but from what I see right now, there’s no evidence that she’s guilty of these crimes,” Shrager said. “I don’t dispute money was stolen … but my client had nothing to do with it.”

Makel would not say what information led the authority to request the audit, but that its findings led them to Pugh.

“The forensic audit gives you the direction to the person who allegedly took the money,” Makel said. “That’s what we based this accusation on.”

A sign at the authority’s office in Dilliner announced it is no longer accepting cash payments as of March 1.

The authority, established in 1969, serves about 1,650 customers in Dunkard, Greene and parts of Monongahela, Cumberland, Perry and Whiteley townships.