Two Charleroi Area School District cafeteria workers accused of gambling with $94,000 in stolen cafeteria money will face trial on charges related to the theft.
Stacy Lee Shipley, 50, and Sheila Ann Cook, 49, both of Charleroi, waived preliminary hearings scheduled for today.
Across nearly two years, the women played the slot machines at the Meadows Racetrack and Casino with money that Ms. Shipley stole from the Charleroi High School-Middle School cafeteria in Fallowfield, according to a Pennsylvania State Police criminal complaint.
Ms. Shipley is charged with theft by failure to make required disposition of funds received and theft by unlawful taking and forgery. Ms. Cook is charged with conspiracy and receiving stolen property.
A charge of dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities -- a felony count that says the women acted with "the knowledge that the property involved represents the proceeds of unlawful activity" -- was dropped for each woman.
Mr. Shipley's attorney, Raymond P. Amatangelo, said the charge was dropped because there were no financial transactions made with the money.
"In this case, it was pretty clear that the funds were taken and gambled away," he said.
Ms. Cook is being represented by a public defender.
According to the criminal complaint, Ms. Shipley would tell Ms. Cook that she had "extra money" with the understanding that it was stolen. The pair promised each other they would split all winnings.
Ms. Cook told police she "just got caught up in the thrill of it all," according to the complaint.
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, superintendent Brad Ferko said earlier this month.
Mr. Amatangelo said Ms. Shipley actually initiated the investigation after she noticed that there were "irregularities" with checks that were being deposited on days other than presented, he said, and went to the school district food vendor with her findings.
"She acknowledges she did wrong, but she felt that obviously there was other wrongdoing, and she didn't want to expose herself to other wrongdoing," he said.
Mr. Ferko did not immediately return a message today.
Mr. Amatangelo said his client has been enrolled in Gamblers Anonymous about four or five months and is also in therapy for her addiction.
"I mean, she really just understands that what she did was wrong," he said. "But the woman truly has an addiction."
Molly Born: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1944 and on Twitter: @borntolede.