HANOVER TWP. – West Wyoming's prior financial troubles were blamed on the late Thomas Loftus, who managed the borough for nearly 30 years, at a preliminary hearing Thursday for two former police officers facing theft charges.
Loftus' name was frequently mentioned at the hearing for former police chiefs David Gashi, 68, and Stanley Sipko, 43, who are facing charges they received double paychecks and failed to return the money to West Wyoming.
State police at Wyoming allege Gashi received $13,699 in duplicate pay, which eventually inflated his pension, and Sipko received $12,991 in additional compensation for which he was not entitled from 2005 to 2009.
After three hours of testimony from West Wyoming Council Chairwoman Eileen Cipriani, state police Cpl. Gerald Williams and state Deputy Auditor General Nate Lipton, District Judge Joseph Halesey determined prosecutors established a case against Gashi and Sipko.
Gashi is facing two counts of theft and Sipko is facing a single count of theft in Luzerne County Court. They remain free on $10,000 bail each.
Cipriani testified that after she was elected to council in 2008, she and Councilman Gary Stavish noticed irregularities in the borough's finances and reported their findings to state police.
Loftus was suspended and then terminated by council in November 2009.
Williams said he began investigating the borough's garbage and liquid fuels account with Sipko in late October 2009, but the investigation closed after Loftus died on Dec. 11, 2009.
Williams said he was contacted by the borough's solicitor, Linell Lukesh, in early January 2010 about financial discrepancies in the borough's payroll accounts. After receiving payroll reports, Williams said he confronted Gashi and Sipko about receiving double paychecks.
Gashi stated the extra paychecks were for unused vacation time despite having received a $19,000 buyout from the borough before retiring in December 2008, and Sipko told state police he repaid cash advances that were given to him by Loftus, Williams said.
Williams and Lipton testified they found no large withdrawals from Sipko's personal bank and Christmas club accounts to suggest he repaid the borough the cash advances.
We saw money going into Stanley Sipko's account but no money coming out, Williams said.
Sipko told state police he repaid Loftus using cash but never received a receipt.
Williams and Lipton said they were able to find Gashi received 22 extra paychecks of which Gashi deposited nine, and Sipko received 15 extra paychecks and only 12 were deposited into his account.
The investigators said the 12 missing checks for Gashi and three missing checks for Sipko were endorsed by Loftus, who possibly forged their names.