HANOVER TWP. – A secretary at Greater Nanticoke Area School District was charged Tuesday with stealing more than $19,400 in students' payments for breakfasts and lunches.
Jacqueline M. Ruchinski, 61, of East Church Street, Nanticoke, allegedly admitted to school officials she pocketed, $10 here or a $20 there from 2006 through 2012, according to charges filed.
An audit by the state Office of Auditor General for those years allegedly found a $19,427 shortage in the cafeteria account at the school district's Educational Center for sixth and seventh grades.
Ruchinski surrendered before District Judge Joseph Halesey where she was arraigned on six counts of theft. She was released on her own recognizance.
Ruchinski hid her face from photographers as she entered and exited the magisterial district office.
The alleged thefts by Ruchinski, a secretary in the district for 20 years, caught school officials by surprise, including Superintendent Anthony Perrone.
Perrone told investigators he was informed of the alleged thefts in a meeting with Ruchinski and Educational Center Principal Joseph Long on April 18. Ruchinski was suspended without pay after the meeting with Perrone.
Perrone said Ruchinski was well respected in the school district.
According to the criminal complaint filed by Luzerne County detectives and Nanticoke police:
Ruchinski was in charge of the Educational Center's cafeteria account and collected students' breakfast and lunch payments. When Nancy Butzek, business office secretary, asked Ruchinski about a missing $8 deposit slip for a student's account on April 18, Ruchinski said she will need to find it.
Butzek examined Ruchinski's cafeteria report and allegedly noticed other missing deposit slips.
Butzek confronted Ruchinski about the missing slips in which Ruchinski replied in a panic, I can fix it. Tell me when, and how much? the complaint says.
Ruchinski offered to use her own money to correct deposit shortages and was told by Butzek she could not do that. Butzek advised Ruchinski if she did something wrong, she needed to talk to Long.
After telling Long she allegedly stole money, Long arranged a meeting with Perrone.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled on Dec. 14 before District Judge Donald Whittaker in Nanticoke.