Charleroi lunch ladies accused of taking $94,000 gamble

School workers charged in theft

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Two Charleroi Area School District cafeteria workers stole about $94,000 in a scheme that involved pocketing cafeteria money and using it to gamble at a casino, according to criminal complaints filed Thursday in Washington County.

Stacy Lee Shipley, 50, and Sheila Ann Cook, 49, both of Charleroi, went to The Meadows Racetrack and Casino with money that Ms. Shipley stole from the school cafeteria, the complaints say.

Ms. Shipley would tell Ms. Cook that she had "extra money" with the understanding that the money was stolen. The pair promised each other they would split all winnings, according to the complaint.

Ms. Cook told police that she "just got caught up in the thrill of it all."

Over about two years, the women had $350,483 "coin in play," according to the complaint. "Coin in play" refers to any money that is placed in a slot machine and includes all jackpots won, according to Meadows Casino spokesman Tom Meinert. Mr. Meinert said it is possible to count the same dollar more than once, if a player cashes out and returns at a later time.

Several months ago, district administrators realized their cafeteria fund was about $30,000 short, prompting an audit, said superintendent Brad Ferko. "It was important for us to be sure we got to the bottom of this because we wanted our taxpayers and community members to know that we would do our best to receive restitution."

Mr. Ferko said that the district has set up a system of "checks and balances" that requires at least three people to count and report cafeteria proceeds.

Ms. Shipley is charged with dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities and theft by unlawful taking or disposition, among other offenses.

Ms. Cook is charged with conspiracy, receiving stolen property and dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities.

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Alex Zimmerman: azimmerman@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3909 or on Twitter @AGZimmerman.


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