Media, PA – District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer today announced charges against Sekela Coles, Upper Darby’s Director of Parking Enforcement. The charges include theft by unlawful taking, theft by deception, receiving stolen property, and other related charges, and arise of the defendant’s diversion of funds collected from parking meters. In addition, the defendant is alleged to have voided the parking violations of her family members.
“All of us working in government have a sacred trust to act in the best interest of our communities. The defendant was entrusted with one of the basic functions of government – collecting parking meter money and depositing the cash. However, rather than acting in the best interest of the citizens of Upper Darby, the defendant is alleged to have taken a portion of the parking meter cash and used it for the purchase of food, birthday cakes, office parties, and restaurant trips for the defendant and her staff. This kind of behavior erodes public trust and must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” said District Attorney Stollsteimer.
The charges are the result of a months-long investigation conducted by Criminal Investigation Division Detective Robert Lythgoe and Detective Edward Rosen.
In February 2023 two citizen informants were interviewed by Detective Rosen. They reported that they had seen Upper Darby Parking Enforcement (“UDPE”) Administrative Assistant Nakita Barnes take six of the Brinks Dunbar bags use for collecting coins from parking meters from the UDPE office and place them in her personal vehicle. The informants also reported that they had observed a receipt from the Police and Fire Federal Credit Union (“PFFCU) for a deposit in the amount of $2,290 on Barnes’ desk. The receipt indicated that a deposit of coin in the amount of $2,290 had been converted to paper currency. An envelope of cash in the amount of $1,730 was located on Barnes’ desk. The standard procedure utilized by the UDPE at that time was to deposit funds collected from the meters at Santander Bank. The informant subsequently informed Detective Rosen that defendant Coles had given the staff instructions to give all bags of coins collected to Barnes, which was not the UDPE’s standard procedure. A second receipt in the amount of $581 from the PFFCU was also observed on Barnes’ desk.
A search warrant for the bank records of Nakita Barnes and her husband, Gregory Barnes, was obtained. Detective Rosen determined that Gregory Barnes had taken six bags of coins to PFFCU on January 14, 2023. Digital images from the PFFCU branch utilized by Gregory Barnes and Nakita Barnes carrying Brinks Dunbar bags into the branch and converting the coins into paper currency.
Nakita Barnes was interviewed by Detective Rosen and Detective Lythgoe on April 28, 2023. Barnes admitted that under the direction of the defendant, she took coins to her personal bank, the PPFCU, and converted them into paper currency. She stated that she then took the money to the defendant who would count the money and Barnes would store the money in her desk.
The defendant was interviewed by Detectives Rosen and Lythgoe on April 28, 2023. Although initially denying the allegations, the defendant did admit to using the funds from the parking meters for the purchase of food, birthday cakes, office parties, and restaurant trips for her and her staff. She stated that she elected to keeps the funds as a “petty cash” fund for use by her office. The defendant also acknowledged that when she became aware that in one instance the amount involved was over $2,000, she directed Barnes to transmit some of the money in smaller increments to the tax office so that it didn’t raise any suspicion. A total of $4,314 has been identified as stolen, of which $2,037.81 was returned.
In connection with an audit of the UDPE by Upper Darby Acting Director of Finance Donna Stillwell of Brinker Simpson, it was determined that at least eight parking violations issued to relatives of the defendant had been voided by Coles.
“I want to thank Detectives Rosen and Lythgoe of the Criminal Investigation Division for their work on this matter. I also want to thank Upper Darby Acting Director of Finance Donna Stillwell of Brinker Simpson for her work in connection with the audit of the UDPE. Finally, I want to thank the DAO’s Deputy for Special Investigations Douglas Rhoads for his invaluable assistance in bringing today’s charges,” said District Attorney Stollsteimer.
Contact: Margie McAboy, Director of Policy and Public Engagement, Delaware County District Attorney’s Office, 610-579-0429.