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12/21/2015- Colwyn Fire Co. members arrested for conspiracy theft

Media, Pa – Today District Attorney Jack Whelan announced that three Colwyn Borough Fire Company members are facing theft charges for writing themselves checks and making cash withdrawals, totaling more than $50,000. The announcement comes at the conclusion of an investigation into missing funds at the Colwyn Borough Volunteer Fire Co., Station 92, conducted by Det. Michele Deery of the District Attorney’s Criminal Investigation Division (CID) Economic Crime Unit.

Lauren Marie Cellini, 26, who is the Colwyn Borough Fire Co. treasurer, Elizabeth E. Cellini, 50, mother of Lauren Cellini and president of the Fire Co., and Gary Rodney Brice, 49, chief of the Fire Co., are all charged with conspiracy to the following charges: theft by unlawful taking, theft by deception, theft by failure to make required disposition of funds, and receiving stolen property, all felonies of the third degree.

On February 25, Det. Michele Deery received information from Paula Brown, Colwyn Borough manager, regarding unpaid bills of the Colwyn Borough Fire Co., Station 92, located at 300 S. 3rd Street in Colwyn Borough. Brown advised that she forwarded the bills to the firehouse yet it became clear they were not being paid as vendors were contacting the borough for payment. Bills including PECO, Verizon and numerous vendors for firehouse equipment such as radios and fire truck maintenance.

Det. Deery was provided with numerous checks written from the Colwyn Firehouse general fund, where Lauren Cellini, the treasurer and authorized signatory on the account, wrote checks to her mother, Elizabeth Cellini, also known as Betty, who is the president of the Firehouse, with no second signature which is required by the bylaws. Checks were also written to Gary Brice, Chief of the firehouse. In direct violation of the Colwyn Firehouse bylaws, the spending of these funds was not approved at any general meeting and no receipts were found to explain the expenditures. 

On March 31, Det. Deery obtained a search warrant for Colwyn Firehouse’s Beneficial Bank accounts for 2012 to August, 2015. According to bank documents, Elizabeth Cellini made $21,579.17 in cash withdrawals and additionally cashed $19,176.35 in checks authorized by Lauren or herself. According to bank records, Gary Brice cashed $8,987.59 in checks signed by Elizabeth or Lauren Cellini. Bank records also show that Lauren Cellini withdrew $2,808.71 in cash.

In total, all three are charged with conspiracy to theft totaling $52, 892.14.

On Aug. 12, Det. Deery along with other members of the Criminal Investigation Division executed a search warrant at the Colwyn firehouse to retrieve documentation including minutes, receipts, and bank records related to the firehouse. During the search warrant, Elizabeth Cellini was at the firehouse. When asked whether she would use firehouse funds for anything other than firehouse business, she replied no.  She told detectives that some vendors would not accept checks from the Colwyn firehouse, so occasionally she would pay a bill with her own money and then get reimbursed. When asked whether documentation of those transactions was recorded in firehouse meetings and board meetings, Elizabeth replied yes.  Although numerous documents, receipts, bill stubs, and bank statements were located in the firehouse, they were not in any kind of order. There was also sporadic documentation of minutes from general and firehouse meetings. Detectives were unable to locate neither any minutes containing any information regarding financials or reimbursements nor any information about specific bills being paid, contrary to Elizabeth Cellini’s statement to detectives.

After Det. Deery made numerous requests for documentation regarding the spending of firehouse funds, Elizabeth Cellini came to the Criminal Investigation Division headquarters on October 30. On that day, she handed Det. Deery a pile of loose receipts with no supporting documentation, including a significant amount of duplicated receipts that had already been retrieved from the prior search warrant of the firehouse. In addition there were receipts for dog toys and dog food, however, Det. Deery confirmed the firehouse did not have a dog.

On Dec. 14, the Pennsylvania Department of the Auditor General announced the findings of a compliance audit of the Colwyn Firehouse finances which began on March 31, 2015. The compliance audit was of records from January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2014. As a result, there was a failure to produce documentation to the Auditor General’s Office regarding spending which is required. Auditors discovered that financial records for the Colwyn firehouse are either nonexistent or in complete disarray. According to the state report, there was a total of $88,610 in undocumented or unauthorized expenses.

Through the course of the investigation it was determined that from 2012 to 2015, Elizabeth Cellini and Lauren Cellini wrote numerous checks to themselves and Gary Brice made numerous cash withdrawals. Det. Deery has been unable to obtain any documentation supporting spending on the search of the firehouse and Elizabeth Cellini has not provided any documentation to date.  For this reason, Elizabeth Cellini, Lauren Cellini and Gary Brice have been charged conspiracy of theft to the total of $52,892.14.

“These individuals stole from the tax payers of Colwyn Borough, the very people they were appointed to serve, taking advantage of their position of authority,” said District Attorney Jack Whelan. “I want to commend Det. Michele Deery for her exemplary work on this difficult and complicated case.”


The Delaware County District Attorney’s Economic Crime Unit of the Criminal Investigation Division investigates Financial Crimes including Corporate Embezzlement, Identity Theft, Forgery, Bank Fraud, Contractor Fraud, Internet Fraud and Insurance Fraud. For more information on the Economic Crime Unit, please visit www.delcoda.com.

Body found in Tinicum Township identified

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DATE:  May 29, 2015
CONTACT PERSON: Emily H. Harris- 610.891.4163


Tinicum Township Police and the District Attorney’s Criminal Investigation Division have identified the body of a white male found yesterday afternoon in a suitcase as 40-year-old Scott Stephen Bernheisel, 140 lbs, 5’8” with a last known address in Philadelphia.

Authorities discovered the body on Thursday, May 28, 2015 at approximately 1:50 p.m., after a man walking his dog on 2nd Street noticed a strong odor emanating from a suitcase located in the weeds off the road. The man contacted police. The suitcase was located approximately 20 feet off the roadway at the 1000 Block of 2nd Street in Lester, Tinicum Township.

The investigation is ongoing by the Tinicum Township Police Department, the District Attorney’s Criminal Investigation Division and the Medical Examiner’s office.

Anyone with information pertaining to the death of Scott Stephen Bernheisel or anyone who was recently in contact with him, are asked to contact County Det. Sgt. William Gordon at 610-891-4703 or Sgt. James Y. Simpkins, of Tinicum Township Police at 610-521-3830.

 

Glenolden fatal vehiclular accident

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DATE:  Dec. 30, 2014
CONTACT PERSON: Emily H. Harris- 610.891.4163

On Monday, Dec. 29, at approximately 4:00 pm, a Folcroft Police Officer assigned to a traffic monitoring detail observed a white Nissan Maxima traveling west at a normal rate of speed on Chester Pike. The police officer observed that the vehicle’s Certificate of Inspection was peeled back from the windshield and that the Certificate of Inspection appeared to be counterfeit.  The officer turned left into the parking lot of Jimmy D’s Tavern located on the 1500 block of Chester Pike to make a U-turn for the purpose of conducting a motor vehicle stop of the white Nissan sedan and the operator. Upon pulling onto Chester Pike traveling west, the Nissan then turned left from Chester Pike onto Primos Avenue heading south.

After waiting for traffic to clear, the police officer followed the vehicle onto Primos Avenue traveling south at a normal rate of speed. The operator of the Nissan then activated the left turn signal to turn left onto Glen Avenue. At this point the officer was traveling behind the Nissan and activated the emergency lights and siren of his police vehicle in an attempt to stop the vehicle.

While attempting to stop the Nissan at a normal rate of speed, the Folcroft police officer notified Delaware County Emergency Communications Center over police radio that he was attempting to conduct a motor vehicle stop.

While continuing to follow the Nissan through neighborhoods surrounding Glen Avenue and Folcroft Avenue for several blocks, the police officer observed that the operator of the Nissan turned onto Chester Pike traveling west and accelerated to an excessive rate of speed. While continuing to attempt to follow the Nissan on Chester Pike several blocks behind, the officer lost sight of the vehicle due to heavy traffic. The police officer then observed a cloud of smoke in the air in the direction which the Nissan had been traveling.

The officer than came upon the scene of the accident, in front of the Glenolden Fire Co. He observed that the Nissan collided with a red Pontiac Grand Am head-on. The Nissan had been observed by witnesses traveling west bound in the eastbound lane of Chester Pike at excessive speed prior to the collision. The operator of the Nissan, Mark Eric Anderson, 25, of Chester, was pronounced dead at the scene. Accident investigators from the Criminal Investigation Division and the Southeast Crash Reconstruction Team responded to the scene to assist with the investigation.

 

Chester woman first sentenced under Brad Fox Law for straw purchase

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DATE: Dec. 11, 2014

CONTACT PERSON: Emily H. Harris- 610.891.4163

District Attorney Jack Whelan announced Staci Dawson, 22, of Chester was sentenced to five years and 11 ½ months to 12 years in a state correctional facility plus seven years consecutive probation for the straw purchase of two guns for her boyfriend, a convicted felon. She was found guilty on charges of conspiracy, making false reports to law enforcement and illegally selling or transferring firearms to another person. Judge James Bradley imposed the five year minimum mandatory sentence mandated by the Brad Fox Law when sentencing Dawson, who has been incarcerated since her conviction in August. Dawson’s is the first straw purchase sentence in Pennsylvania, under the Brad Fox Law enacted in 2013. The law is named for a Montgomery County police officer who was gunned down in the line of duty by a suspect who obtained his gun through a straw purchase. The law mandates a minimum sentence of five years in prison for individuals who are convicted a second time of "straw purchasing" guns, or legally buying guns and then illegally selling or giving them to felons. Out of the County’s 37 murders so far this year, 30 have been the result of gun violence. District Attorney Jack Whelan and other officials present at the press conference drove home the danger straw purchasing and illegal transfers present and the severity of the crimes. “Straw purchasing, a transaction in which a person falsely asserts they are buying a gun for their own use when in fact they are buying it for someone else, is one of the main ways criminals prohibited from owning guns get access to them,” said District Attorney Jack Whelan. “The reality is this type of decision is not only a crime, but it is morally reprehensible with total disregard for society. It is our hope that this sentence will discourage people from purchasing guns and potentially placing them in the hands of dangerous criminals. I support the second amendment right to bear arms, for those who are legally entitled to do so. Guns belong in the hands of the citizens who are legally allowed to possess them, not the criminals. If a person bypasses the law, they face significant incarceration in a state facility.” On March 5, 2013, Shamar Atkinson and Dawson’s boyfriend, David Colon, were taken into custody by Chester Patrol Cpl. William Carey Jr. who secured a Kel-Tec pistol. Colon, 22, was charged with cocaine possession and Atkinson was charged with possession of the Kel-Tec pistol. On March 8, Delaware County CID detective Dave Tyler was contacted in reference to a firearm that was purchased by Dawson at a gun store in Delaware County as a possible straw purchase. Detective Tyler interviewed the gun store owner and confirmed Dawson purchased a Kel-Tec 9 mm model PF-9 handgun on Feb. 27, 2013 which she later reported as stolen to Chester Police on March 12, 2013 along with another firearm. As a result of probable cause based on the investigation conducted by the Delaware County District Attorney’s Criminal Investigation Division and Chester Police Department, Staci Dawson was arrested for the straw purchase of a Kel-Tec 9mm model PF-9 handgun and a Smith and Wesson .40 caliber handgun. District Attorney Whelan commended county and city detectives, along with the Anti-Violence Task Force for the successful prosecution of this case. He also noted the Task Force’s plans to continue aggressively prosecuting straw purchases and illegal gun transfers in Delaware County. “I’d like to commend Deputy District Attorney George B. Dawson who prosecuted the case and County detectives David Tyler and Michael Jay, along with the Chester Police Department for their investigative work on this difficult case,” said District Attorney Jack Whelan. “Our office will continue to work with federal, state and local agencies to address and reduce gun violence along with community organizations, churches and even gun store owners to raise awareness about the severity of these crimes.”