WILKES-BARRE – It’ll be house arrest and probation – and no jail time – for a former Luzerne County worker caught stealing from taxpayers.
Carl Salitis, a former employee in the Recorder of Deeds office, was sentenced Thursday to nine to 18 months of house arrest plus five years probation for stealing more than $100,000 from the office. And he has to pay it all back. Exactly how much that is remains unclear. An audit determined $374,968 was stolen from the office between 1998 and 2005. But another office employee, Robert Pritchard, was also charged with stealing. Assistant District Attorney Jarrett Ferentino said Salitis, 47, of Throop, was responsible for stealing “the lion’s share” of the funds, but it can’t be determined precisely how much Salitis stole. That leaves his restitution pegged at more than $100,000 with probation officials on the hook to figure it all out, Salitis’ attorney, Frank Nocito, said. Salitis started paying back the money on Thursday. He forfeited his pension, valued at $65,000, and his pay for unused sick days to the county. Ferentino had said prosecutors would take Salitis’ home, if needed, to get restitution. But that couldn’t happen, he said Thursday, because the home is in Salitis’ wife’s name. So will all of the stolen money ever be recovered? “I don’t know,” Ferentino said. Salitis will try to pay it back, though, Nocito said. “He’ll do his best,” he said. Salitis in November pleaded no contest to theft and tampering with public records in connection with the thefts that occurred between 1998 and 2005. On Thursday, Ferentino asked Court of Common Pleas Judge Mark Ciavarella to ensure the stolen money would be paid back while making sure Salitis is punished. He wanted the judge to impose a sentence of incarceration, noting that Salitis’ theft was not a one-time deal. “This was a calculated and methodical series of thefts,” he said. But Ferentino never specifically asked for jail time. He asked for “incarceration,” which can be jail or house arrest. Ciavarella opted for the latter and Ferentino accepted it. “We asked for a term of incarceration,” he said, noting Salitis will be under supervision for six years and likely paying restitution for the rest of his life. “That’s what the judge gave us.” Nocito got what he wanted, too. He asked for house arrest with a long term of supervision in order to allow Salitis to pay restitution. “Our concern obviously is one of restitution,” he told Ciavarella. Salitis has health problems, takes care of his elderly parents, and has lost his job and reputation, Nocito said. “It was a fair and appropriate sentence under all the circumstances,” he said. State sentencing guidelines called for Salitis to receive a minimum sentence of incarceration between nine and 16 months. Ciavarella’s sentence was within that range, Ferentino said. Ciavarella, in imposing the sentence, said Salitis had no past criminal record. He also said Salitis does not have to wear an electronic ankle bracelet to monitor his house arrest. He wants Salitis to use the money he would have had to shell out to pay for the bracelet to use toward restitution. Ciavarella also waived Salitis’ supervision fees for the same reason. Salitis is employed and will be able to leave his home for work, church and medical reasons. He also has to refrain from drinking alcohol. Ferentino said the sentence was consistent with Pritchard’s sentence. Ciavarella previously sentenced Pritchard to six to 12 months of house arrest for stealing more than $51,000 from the office. Ferentino said more than the $374,968 might have been stolen from the office. That was the amount stolen in a six-year period, as far back as the audit was able to go. More could have been stolen prior to that period, he said. Pritchard and Salitis no longer work for the office. Salitis did not address Ciavarella.
David Weiss, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 831-7397.