(Standard-Speaker (Hazleton, PA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) March 08--A Weatherly woman was arraigned Friday on charges that she stole almost $200,000 from two accounts owned by a well-known local family and handled by the Hazleton accounting firm where she had worked.
Magisterial District Judge Joseph Zola set unsecured bail at $50,000 for the suspect, Alyce Anne Simmons, of 640 E. Second St.
Simmons, 48, had been employed by Joseph Spanial and Associates in Hazleton, and is accused of taking money from the Spanial-maintained accounts of Triple J Community Broadcasting LLC, and WYLN, of Hazleton, and from Captain's Cove, a New York fishing business.
While police did not identify the victims in the affidavit of probable cause filed Friday, court documents filed last year identify them as members of the Gans family.
According to the affidavit, Hazleton police Sgt. David Bunchalk began investigating the theft from a Captain's Cove account maintained by the Spaniel firm and accountant Barry Spanial in December after the victims noticed that $76,225.57 in checks had been issued to "James Simmons" since 2010. The victims -- members of the Gans family -- said they did not know "James Simmons" and did not authorize any payments to him.
The Gans family explained that each week they would send bills to Barry Spanial, who would prepare and return a report to them. At that point, the victims would deposit money into the account and advise Spanial to make certain payments.
In recent months, however, several checks had been returned for lack of sufficient funds.
Police reviewed a register of bills from Captain's Cove and found no checks or payments listed for "James Simmons." However, a review of a bank statement shows that a $240.62 check made out to James Simmons was endorsed and cashed. In another instance, police learned that a $548.63 check intended for "O.D. Green Lumb," was made out to "James Simmons." Police also found another unauthorized check had been written to "James Simmons," and endorsed by Alyce Ann Simmons. Checks were cashed locally.
Through an investigation, police learned that the accounting firm is authorized to use a stamp of Joseph and Patricia Gans' signatures to "sign" checks. Police also note in court documents that Barry Spanial's home address is the same as Alyce Simmons' home address.
Officers obtained a search warrant for the accounting business in December, and said a woman -- later identified as Alyce Simmons -- asked to talk to them. Police said she appeared nervous and began to cry.
"Before I could say anything else, Simmons stated that, 'It was me. I did it. I took the money. I'm so sorry,'" Bunchalk wrote in the affidavit.
After advising her of her Miranda Rights, Alyce Simmons said she wanted to explain to police what had happened.
Beginning in 2010, she said she began writing extra checks on the account in her son's name. She would use the Gans' signature stamp, and either deposit the checks or cash them at local banks. At times, she would write a few checks a week. Other weeks, she said she would write none.
Furthermore, Bunchalk wrote, "Upon reviewing the records for the business known as Triple J Community Broadcasting, LLC/DBA WYLN, also owned by the same victims, it was discovered that additional monies had been taken."
Police found that Alyce Simmons had written a total of $120,095.93 in checks out to herself from the Triple J Community Broadcasting/WYLN account. In all, police said she stole $196,321.50 from the Gans' accounts.
She faces two felony charges each of theft by unlawful taking or disposition, and theft by failure to make required disposition of funds received.
Zola recused himself from the case because his accounting firm is Joseph Spanial and Associates.
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