Crime

Former Bellefonte candy shop owner pleaded guilty to stealing thousands from church

Former Bellefonte business owner allegedly stole from church

Former Pappy Chuck's Candy Shoppe owner Chuck Kormanski is being charged with embezzlement.
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Former Pappy Chuck's Candy Shoppe owner Chuck Kormanski is being charged with embezzlement.

The former owner of Pappy Chuck’s Candy Shoppe pleaded guilty to stealing more than $167,000 from St. John Lutheran Church and is scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday to a county jail term, Assistant District Attorney Crystal Hundt said.

Chuck Kormanski, 57, wrote 379 checks to himself over a seven-year period “for his own personal gain,” Bellefonte police Detective Bill Witmer wrote in a criminal complaint filed in January.

Kormanski, who was also the church’s treasurer, pleaded guilty in June to 10 felony counts of theft by unlawful taking, Hundt said. He was originally charged with 379 felony counts each of theft by unlawful taking, theft by deception and receiving stolen property.

“If I could get Stevie Wonder a driver’s license, I could probably get an acquittal,” defense lawyer Jim Bryant said. “I didn’t think I could do either.”

Hundt declined to say why the remaining charges were dropped. Bryant said the case was about “damage control.”

“It was a choice between Scylla and Charybdis,” Bryant said, referring to two monsters from Greek mythology that represented a choice between two evils. “And I once went out on a date with Scylla, and I decided I preferred Charybdis.”

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St. John Lutheran Church in Bellefonte on Jan. 7, 2019. Abby Drey Centre Daily Times, file

Kormanski is scheduled to be sentenced to 11.5 to 23.5 months in jail by Centre County Judge Brian Marshall, followed by five years of probation, Hundt said. Kormanski did not contest the amount stolen and is expected to be required to pay restitution “if at all possible,” Bryant said.

“He’ll be paying forever in one way or another,” Bryant said. “It’s just a sad, unfortunate situation and I feel very badly for the congregation.”

Kormanski opened his business, which sold a variety of vintage candy and soft serve ice cream, in April 2018. He announced the store’s closure about nine months later.

“Your affiant has reason to believe the business was a failing business by suddenly closing in December and for being open for a short time period,” Witmer wrote in a search warrant filed in January. “Your affiant also has reason to believe — due to the failure of the business (and) the amounts taken from the St. John Lutheran Church — (this) was Kormanski’s means to support his business and his lifestyle.”

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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