Why a man faces felony charges related to a proposed Wendy’s in Spring Township

A new Wendy’s fast-food restaurant could be coming to Centre County.
A new Wendy’s fast-food restaurant could be coming to Centre County. AP, file

An employee of the engineering firm working on the development of a Wendy’s in Spring Township forged 14 signatures and two approval dates on the project’s plans, according to Spring Township police.

Spring Township code officer Vaughn Zimmerman told Spring Township Manager Bill MacMath that he received plans for the project with signatures already affixed.

One of the signatures belonged to the owner of an engineering and surveying company, who said 26-year-old Austin Thomas called him and said “it was an emergency and absolutely necessary” that he sign the plans. He never heard from Thomas again and didn’t sign the plans, according to police.

Police also spoke with the manager of HRG Engineering — the firm Thomas used to work for — who said he received an email from Thomas on Dec. 6 that said “Got signatures, scanning in plans and making copies to take to Chris.”

The signatures were allegedly made on Dec. 5.

A detective then spoke with Thomas’ immediate supervisor, who said he would drive Thomas to the police station the next day Thomas came to work — but that day never came and he was terminated two days later.

The human resources director for HRG Engineering told police Thomas said “he understood why he was being terminated.”

In a Facebook post, police said the plans are expected to proceed, but may be delayed.

Thomas was charged with 16 felony counts of forgery.

He was arraigned Friday by District Judge Kelley Gillette-Walker, who set bail at $75,000 unsecured.

Thomas waived his preliminary hearing Wednesday.

Bret Pallotto primarily reports on courts and crime for the Centre Daily Times. He grew up in Lewistown and graduated from Lock Haven University.