Former Bellefonte Mart employee receives jail time for stealing lottery tickets

A former Bellefonte Mart employee convicted of stealing Pennsylvania Lottery tickets from the business was sentenced Friday to at least six months in the Centre County Correctional Facility and one year of probation.

Donna Hepfer, 57, is scheduled to report to jail Monday. She received credit for four days served and was also ordered to pay nearly $12,000 in restitution.

Hepfer was found guilty in July of one felony count each of theft by unlawful taking, receiving stolen property and retail theft. She stole nearly $7,000 in tickets and more than $4,400 in winnings from those tickets, Bellefonte police Detective Bill Witmer wrote in an affidavit of probable cause filed in August 2018.

Centre County Assistant District Attorney Megan McGoron requested the county jail sentence, citing Hepfer’s three previous felony theft convictions from 2004 to 2012. Hepfer was sentenced to probation for each case.

“It is clear from the defendant’s record that she has learned absolutely nothing from her previous convictions and continues to commit thefts,” McGoron wrote in a sentencing memo sent to Centre County President Judge Pamela Ruest prior to sentencing. “... She not only continued the theft over several months’ span, but also doing so while using her position as a trusted employee to gain access to the tickets that she was stealing.”

During the trial, Hepfer testified Witmer lied. That attempt to sully the reputation of “one of the most trusted and respected police officers” in the county also warranted jail time, McGoron wrote.

First Assistant Public Defender Deb Lux argued for six months of house arrest. Hepfer, a Bellefonte Area High School graduate, relies on Social Security and food stamps for income and lives with fibromyalgia, high blood pressure, anxiety and depression, Lux wrote in her sentencing memo to Ruest.

Hepfer declined to comment before the sentence was announced. Hepfer “took no responsibility” and her thefts “keep popping up every couple of years,” Ruest said.

“Perhaps this is what needs to be done,” she said.

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