Crime

Former Bald Eagle Township official sentenced after pleading guilty to theft by deception

State Attorney General Josh Shapiro speaks during a May 1 press conference in Harrisburg. Two former Clinton County township supervisors were sentenced after pleading guilty to stealing thousands of dollars, his office announced.
State Attorney General Josh Shapiro speaks during a May 1 press conference in Harrisburg. Two former Clinton County township supervisors were sentenced after pleading guilty to stealing thousands of dollars, his office announced. Centre Daily Times, file

A former Clinton County township secretary and treasurer was sentenced to seven years of probation after pleading guilty to fraudulently writing more than $76,000 of checks from the township’s general fund to herself, the state attorney general’s office announced Monday.

Michelle Walizer, 44, of Lock Haven, was charged in October after a statewide grand jury said she entered the fraudulent information into the township’s accounting software, indicating the checks were paid to contractors for services that were never rendered. She also created fake invoices for the charges, according to the attorney general’s office.

“The defendant was a public official trusted to manage the township’s funds, but instead she abused her position of authority for her own personal gain,” state Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a statement. “Now, she is being held accountable for her crimes and will pay back the money she stole from the taxpayers.”

Defense attorney Edward Rymsza did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Walizer was charged with 16 felony counts each of theft by unlawful taking, theft by deception, receiving stolen property, forgery, tampering with public information and unlawful use of a computer. She was also charged with one felony count of conflict of interest and two misdemeanors.

She pleaded guilty to four felony counts of theft by deception. In addition to probation, she was ordered to pay nearly $76,300 in restitution and a $2,500 fine, according to the attorney general’s office.

Walizer was one of two former Bald Eagle Township officials to be charged as a result of the grand jury’s presentment.

James Bechdel Sr., the former chairman of the township’s supervisors, fraudulently obtained a travel trailer for his brother’s private use. He pleaded guilty in February to one felony count of conflict of interest, according to the attorney general’s office.

Bechdel, 79, was also sentenced to seven years of probation and was ordered to pay more than $100,000 in damages, according to the attorney general’s office.

Defense attorney Robert O’Connor Jr. did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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