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Category Archives: Pennsylvania

Chester County District Attorney Opens Criminal Investigation Into Mariner East Pipeline

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Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan announced that the District Attorney’s
Office (the “DAO”) has opened a criminal investigation into the construction of the Mariner East
1, 2, and 2X pipelines being constructed through Chester County. This investigation includes the
owners of the pipelines – – Energy Transfer LP, Sunoco Logistics Partners, and related corporate
entities (collectively, “Sunoco”).
District Attorney Hogan stated, “In the last two years, we have seen these pipelines rip
through the heart of Chester County. We have seen sinkholes created by the pipeline drilling,
contaminated well water, and some subtle and not-so-subtle bullying of Chester County citizens
by big corporate interests. We expected the state regulators and the governor to step in and
assure the safety of Pennsylvanians. They have not. So now the Chester County District
Attorney’s Office will demand that every aspect of these pipelines be conducted safely, or we
will bring into play all of the tools of the criminal justice system.”
The Mariner East 1, 2, and 2X pipelines are intended to ship volatile natural gas from
western Pennsylvania all the way to Marcus Hook in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. These
pipelines cut directly through the middle of Chester County, bisecting heavily populated
residential areas, running near schools and businesses, and in close proximity to railroads and
streets.
The Mariner East 1 pipeline previously existed to ship refined petroleum under Chester
County running from the eastern portion of Pennsylvania to the west. Refined petroleum is a
very different substance than natural gas and Mariner East 1 is smaller than the planned Mariner
East 2 and 2X pipelines. Sunoco intended to build the Mariner East 2 and 2X pipelines along the
same route as Mariner East 1. In order to accomplish this, they intended to use horizontal
directional drilling, a process that can be problematic depending on the area where drilling is
occurring. Sunoco also introduced plans to reverse the flow of Mariner East 1 and use it to ship
natural gas under Chester County in the older and smaller pipeline.
The Mariner East pipeline construction has experienced significant problems. On the
property of homes in West Whiteland Township, the drilling resulted in significant sinkholes in
the residents’ back-yards. In another area of Chester County, the drilling caused the apparent
contamination of well water for multiple residences. In Beaver County, Pennsylvania, there was
an explosion along a pipeline, destroying a home. The Department of Environmental Protection
has fined the owners of the pipelines. But the construction of these pipelines keeps continuing.
“Two things recently happened that drew the attention of the District Attorney’s Office,”
District Attorney Hogan added. “First, the explosion in Beaver County changed speculation into
tangible danger and destruction. Second, over Thanksgiving, some of the residents of Lisa Drive
in West Whiteland were kind enough to take me onto their property and show me the damage
caused by the pipelines. The concerns and fears of those citizens were both disturbing and heartwrenching.
I then detailed District Attorney staff members to do the legal research to make sure
that the DAO had jurisdiction to investigate the pipelines and received an affirmative response.”
The District Attorney’s investigation will cover both past and future conduct related to
the pipelines. Potential charges include causing or risking a catastrophe, criminal mischief,
environmental crimes, and corrupt organizations. Such offenses could include criminal charges
directly against the individual employees involved, from workers on the pipelines through
corporate officers. Sunoco has been advised of this investigation via a letter. See attached,
Exhibit A.
District Attorney Hogan stated, “This investigation will not be easy. It will take time to
dig into the historical information and we will need to constantly monitor any future activity.
But we are committed to protecting Chester County. And we will need our citizens to help.”
Chester County Detective Ben Martin is the lead investigator. The assigned prosecutors
are Alexander Gosfield and Myles Matteson. Anybody with information should contact
Detective Martin at 610-344-6866.
District Attorney Hogan concluded with, “We understand that only the Pennsylvania
Utility Commission or the governor can shut down construction of these pipelines, and neither
has shown any inclination to do so. But we can at least make sure that anything that happens in
Chester County complies with the criminal laws of Pennsylvania. We owe that to our citizens.
Money should not be allowed to trump safety.”


 

FULL PRESS STATEMENT HERE

Employee Embezzles Over $300,000 From Chester County Business

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Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan announced the arrest of defendant
Cynthia Taylor for stealing over $330,000 from her employer, Ballymore Company, in
Sadsbury Township, Chester County Pennsylvania. Ballymore manufactures rolling
safety ladders used in many big box stores. The defendant used the company credit card
for personal expenditures and then doctored the internal records to cover up her crime.
The defendant has been charged with felony theft and related offenses.
The defendant is 37 years old. She resides in Gap, Lancaster County,
Pennsylvania. The defendant was employed by Ballymore as an account manager.
District Attorney Hogan stated, “Ballymore Company discovered this theft through
internal auditing and an internal investigation. It is an unfortunate reminder that all
businesses are vulnerable to insiders who abuse their position of trust. That is why
businesses, big and small, need to have internal safeguards and always keep an eye on
people managing the finances.”
The facts alleged in the criminal complaint are as follows:1

The defendant worked at Ballymore for seven years, rising to the position of Major
Account Manager. In this role, she reported directly to Ballymore’s president and was
responsible for managing the employee expenses account with American Express.
Ballymore had a business account through American Express and numerous employees,
including the defendant, were issued business credit cards.

1 A criminal defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in court.
When the monthly statements came in, the defendant was responsible for checking
the employee expenditures and then coding the expenditures into the company’s internal
records.
In October of 2017, the company performed an internal audit, which revealed
significant discrepancies between the American Express statements and their
corresponding internal records. Ballymore acted swiftly and professionally by
performing an internal investigation, discovering the full extent of the problem, and
reporting the crime to law enforcement.
Ballymore discovered that the defendant had, since 2013, been using the company
American Express card for personal expenses. The defendant then covered up her fraud
by changing the records to appear as though she had incurred legitimate business
expenses. For example, in December of 2015, she used the company card to spend
$163.21 at Gamestop, an electronics and video game store. The defendant changed the
records to reflect that it was a business purchase from Amazon Market and coded it as a
business expense. The defendant employed this strategy at least 2,443 times from
January of 2013 until she was terminated from the company in November of 2017 after
the fraud was discovered.
Ballymore reported this crime to the Sadsbury Township Police Department, who,
along with the Chester County Detectives, investigated the theft. Based on a thorough
review of the records as well as Ballymore’s own internal investigation, detectives
confirmed that the defendant stole $331,563.00 from Ballymore, abusing her position for
personal gain. The defendant used the company card for gifts, purses, groceries, and
other personal items. She used the card to shop at stores such as Coach, Ralph Lauren,
Vera Bradley, Kay Jewelers, and Michael Kors.
The defendant has been charged with felony theft and access device fraud.
This case was investigated by the Chester County Detectives and the Sadsbury
Township Police Department. Anybody with further information should contact
Detective John O’Donnell at 610-344-6866. The assigned prosecutor is Brian D. Burack.

Low Temps Put Pets at Risk Too

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By: Andrea Sears

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Animal rights advocates are reminding pet owners that cold weather can be fatal to dogs and cats that remain outside.

Many people keep their pets in backyard enclosures or tied to dog houses, even during the winter.

But like humans, pets can suffer from deadly frostbite and exposure and can experience dehydration if their drinking water freezes.

Last winter, at least 50 cold weather animal deaths were reported nationwide, but most deaths are not reported at all.

According to Kaleigh Rhoads, a campaign coordinator with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), pets already are at risk in Pennsylvania this year.

“Just this week in Fayette County, a dog was found left outside in 26-degree weather and police are currently filing charges for animal cruelty on that case,” she relates.

Rhoads urges pet owners to bring their animals inside if possible when the weather is cold.

If animals cannot be brought into the house, then Rhoads says owners are responsible for making sure they have adequate shelter outside of the house.

“A legal shelter in cold weather must be raised off the ground and completely waterproof, properly sized so the animal can stand and turn around while still retaining their body heat, have a protected entrance, dry bedding, and should be placed in an area where it will have the best protection from the wind and cold,” she states.

Rhoads adds that animals may need extra food in the winter if they’re burning more calories to keep warm.

Rhoads wants everyone to be aware that pet ownership comes with legal obligations, and protecting pets from severe weather is one of them.

“These dogs and cats are required by law to have adequate shelter,” she stresses. “So if you see an animal who has inadequate shelter or none at all, please report it to the authorities.”

More information and tips for cold-weather care of animals is available online at PETA.org.

PARKESBURG RESIDENT BARRY ROOT ARRESTED FOR RECEIVING STOLEN PROPERTY (STOLEN VEHICLE) F-3

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Barry Root, 36, of Parkesburg, PA was charged with Receiving Stolen Property after a traffic stop in the 2200 block of North Reading Road on October 16, 2018.   At 0035 hours, an East Cocalico Police Officer observed Root driving a vehicle which had been reported stolen to the PA State Police on September 24, 2018.   A check of the vehicle’s registration confirmed that it was a stolen vehicle.   Root was stopped and taken into custody without incident.   He was taken to Central Arraignment and remanded to Lancaster County Prison after failing to post bail.  Root faces additional charges from the PA State Police.

A passenger in the vehicle was taken into custody on outstanding warrants.

CALN TOWNSHIP SET FOR $525,000 WATER MAIN UPGRADE

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COATESVILLE, PA  – Pennsylvania American Water today announced the start of construction to install new water main in Caln Township to improve service reliability and prevent water outages. The project cost is approximately $525,000 and will replace outdated pipe dating back to the 1940s.

Starting this week, the company will install nearly 3,500 feet of new eight-inch ductile iron along Reed Street between 17th Avenue and 13th Avenue, and along 13th Avenue between Reed Street and West Chester Road. Crews expect to complete the water main installation, testing and disinfection, and connecting customers’ service lines to the new main by early December, weather permitting. Final street paving restoration is scheduled for next spring.

Crews will work weekdays between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. Traffic restrictions will be in place during construction, and motorists are urged to give themselves extra time and exercise caution when traveling through the work zone. During construction, customers might experience temporary water service interruptions, discolored water and/or lower than normal water pressure.

Time Running Out to Pass Telemedicine Bill

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Andrea Sears

HARRISBURG, Pa. – With the state legislative session coming to a close, advocates are still hoping a bill that would expand options for Pennsylvanians to get health care will get a final vote.

Senate Bill 780 would require insurance companies to offer coverage for telemedicine services provided by phone, email or over the Internet at rates comparable to in-person office visits.

The bill easily cleared the state Senate in June, but the House has yet to vote on the measure.

Thirty-eight other states have similar requirements.

According to Bill Johnston-Walsh, state director of AARP Pennsylvania, it would be extremely beneficial to those who may have to travel an hour or more to see a doctor or specialist.

“Telemedicine has the potential to improve access to both health care and home and community-based services, and it will increase the choice of providers especially in rural areas,” he stresses.

SB 780 has the support of 45 groups including organizations representing Pennsylvania doctors and hospitals. But it is opposed by insurance companies.

Johnston-Walsh says by making health care more accessible, telemedicine could benefit health and save money.

“We believe and hospitals believe and doctors believe that this is better for patients because we will be able to catch things sooner, the costs will be lower and we’ll be able to treat people at a much earlier stage in their sickness,” he states.

Johnston-Walsh says telemedicine would help both consumers and insurers keep up with technological advances in health care.

But he notes time is running out. The House is scheduled to meet for only four more days before the session ends on Nov. 13.

“We’re hoping that it will pass within the next day or two,” he states. “There’s only several more legislative days left before they leave for the year. This bill is very important and it has to be voted on right now.”

PA State Special-Ed Funding Falls Far Behind Need

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Andrea Sears

PHILADELPHIA – Local school districts are picking up more and more of the costs of special education as state funding lags, according to a new report.

On average, the Education Law Center report said, the share of special-education funding that comes from local districts grew by 9 percent over eight years. For 53 of the state’s 500 districts, the increase was 20 percent or more.

Reynelle Brown Staley, policy attorney at the center, said the gap has been growing because the cost of special education has increased at a rate of about 5 percent every year.

“But state funding is increasing at roughly 1 percent per year,” she said, “and it’s simply not enough to meet the gap between what districts need and what students need to get the educational services that they are entitled to.”

Staley said now is the time for the state’s Special Education Funding Commission to review the funding system and demand prompt action from the Legislature.

Total spending for special education has grown by more than $1.5 billion since 2009, but state funding increased by only $72 million. Staley pointed out that when state and federal funds fall short, local districts need to make up the difference.

“They’re needing to look elsewhere in their budgets for funding, to raise taxes,” she said, “and in some cases, they’re having to cut services because there simply isn’t enough funding coming from the state.”

Local districts now put in almost $20 for every $1 in increased special-education funding that comes from the state.

A study eight years ago found a $2,000 gap between per-pupil spending and student needs. Staley said simply returning to that state funding level now would require spending increases of at least $100 million a year over several years.

“But we know, based on that 2009 costing-out study, that showed that districts were significantly underfunding special education, that the state needs to do even more than that to actually meet the needs of students with disabilities,” she said.

Staley said the special-education funding needs don’t even include an estimated $3 billion gap in basic education funding.

The study is online at elc-pa.org.

Pittsburgh Security Officers Win $15/Hour Contract

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Andrea Sears

PITTSBURGH – Security officers in Pittsburgh are celebrating a new contract that, for many, almost doubles the pay and benefits they were getting just a few years ago.

The agreement, announced in Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto’s conference room on Tuesday, covers more than 1,100 workers who protect most of the city’s iconic buildings, museums and universities.

Just three years ago, when they negotiated their first contract, said Sam Williamson, Western Pennsylvania district director for Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union, some of these workers were making $8.50 an hour and had no employer-funded health insurance.

Now, their jobs include insurance, he said, and they’re moving toward a living wage.

“There’ll be continued significant wage increases that will raise the base or starting pay to $14.20 an hour over the course of the contract,” said Williamson, “and the average pay will be a little over $15 an hour by the end of the agreement.”

He said those raises will bring an additional $7 million over four years into low-income households in neighborhoods across Pittsburgh.

While politicians have claimed the economy has recovered from the devastation of the Great Recession, economists said most of the gains have gone to the top 1 percent of earners. Williamson pointed out that for the vast majority of Americans, wages and income have stagnated.

“Income inequality has continued to widen,” he said, “and the only exception to that is where workers are able to organize into unions and bargain collectively for the kinds of wage increases that they actually deserve.”

Williamson said many security workers still report having trouble affording food and difficulty paying monthly utility bills. He said the new contract will be a big step in turning that around.

“Between those wage investments, continued investment in health care that will make sure that people have access to really good-quality health insurance, and the introduction of paid sick days,” he said, “this agreement makes a huge improvement in over 1,000 Pittsburghers’ lives.”

32BJ SEIU is the largest union for security officers in the country.

Scam Warning: Fraudulent Notices Threaten Pennsylvanians with Prosecution due to Unpaid Taxes

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Harrisburg, Pa. — The Department of Revenue today warned the public of a recently reported mail scam in which con artists have tried to defraud Pennsylvanians by threatening them with legal action or criminal prosecution if they don’t pay an illegitimate tax debt immediately.

“Con artists are always working to develop new and elaborate schemes to swindle money from hard-working people,” Revenue Secretary Dan Hassell said. “They use high-pressure tactics and threats to pressure their victims and make them fearful of the potential consequences if they don’t act immediately. We want everyone to be aware of scams like these so they can recognize the warning signs and protect themselves.”

Understanding the scam

According to Dauphin County officials, a number of residents have recently reported receiving notifications through the mail from the “Tax Processing Center.” The notices say the recipient owes “The State of Pennsylvania” unpaid taxes and a “warranted lien” has been issued in their name.

The notices pressure recipients to immediately call the phone number provided to avoid criminal penalty, property seizure and civil proceedings. The notices say the phone number provided will connect callers with a “Levy and Warrant Officer.”

Tips to avoid tax scams and con artists

The Department of Revenue is encouraging Pennsylvanians to keep the following tips in mind to safeguard against this scam and others:

  • Look for imposters: Many times con artists will pose as a government entity or an official business. If you are targeted by a con artist through the mail, phone or email, do not provide personal information or money until you are sure you are speaking to a legitimate representative.
  • Examine the notice: Con artists often design vague communications to cast a wide net to lure in as many victims as possible. Examine the notice for identifying information that can be verified. Look for blatant factual errors and other inconsistencies, such as a fake return address. If the notice is unexpected and states ‘This Is Your Final Notice,’ take a moment and verify its legitimacy. The Department of Revenue will send multiple letters to taxpayers if there is a legitimate liability owed.
  • Unusual payment methods: Avoid scenarios where you are asked to pay your debt with reloadable debit cards, gift cards or money wiring services. The Department of Revenue and other government agencies will never ask you to satisfy an outstanding liability using these payment methods.
  • Confide in someone you trust: Con artists will use aggressive tactics to rush a person to make an immediate payment to avoid legal action or prosecution. If you have any questions at all about the legitimacy of a notice you receive, slow down and talk to someone you trust.
  • Conduct research online: Using information included in a potentially fraudulent notice, such as company name, address or telephone number, conduct a search online to see if a scam has been reported by other people or government agencies.

Steps to follow if you are a victim of a scam

If you believe you are a victim of this scam or have been targeted by a con artist, contact your local law enforcement agency. You can also call the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection at 800-441-2555. Also, if you receive a mailing you believe is mail fraud, contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service here.

If you have questions about your local property taxes, contact your local taxing authority. If your question pertains to your state personal income tax return or a potential state tax liability, call the Department of Revenue’s Taxpayer Services and Information Center at 717-787-8201.