A former treasurer of Wellsville Elementary School's parent-teacher organization must spend about a year in prison and repay the $33,764 she stole from the PTO.
Patricia Ann Smith stole money earmarked for assemblies and initiatives that benefited the school's students, including replacing aging playground equipment, Wellsville Elementary Principal Steve Lehman said during Smith's sentencing hearing Wednesday afternoon.
Lehman said he believes Smith used the money to finance a lifestyle she could not have otherwise afforded.
"She took money from little kids," he said, then "publicly thumbed her nose at the system" by posting photos on Facebook of her and her family on beach vacations, on a boat and in high-end cars they couldn't afford.
He said she never apologized or expressed remorse.
Lehman told presiding Common Pleas Judge Michael E. Bortner the law should "stand up for victims like us."
"Enough is enough," he said.
Loss of trust: Wellsville Elementary School lost more than PTO money, according to Lehman.
"There was a loss of faith and trust our parents had in the leadership of the school and the (PTO)," he said.
Instead of having more than $30,000 to help students, "we actually owed the bank money," Lehman said. "You can imagine how shocked we were."
Smith's public defender, Joshua Neiderhiser, told the judge Smith was struggling with financial hardship. She drives a seven-year-old SUV, he said, and the beach vacations were at a camper owned by her parents.
"She has been very remorseful," he said. "Obviously, Ms. Smith has a problem."
He asked for a long probationary sentence instead of prison.
Not intentional? She is unemployed and looking for a job, he said.
Smith, 41, of 7270 Harmony Grove Road in Warrington Township, cried in court as she apologized.
"I am truly, truly sorry for my actions, my poor judgment," she said. "I have ruined my life. I have ruined a lot of lives. It wasn't intentional."
At that point Bortner interrupted her.
"How do you accidentally write out checks to yourself ... (for) $33,000?" he asked.
Smith said she had "a spending habit" and financial problems.
"I just want it to be finished so I can move on with my life," she said.
Consequences: After reading a number of letters requesting mercy written by Smith's family and friends -- including her sixth-grade daughter -- Bortner said there must be consequences.
He sentenced Smith to 11-1/2 to 23 months in York County Prison, followed by a consecutive five years of probation. She must report to prison Dec. 2.
Bortner also ordered Smith to complete finance and budgeting classes offered in the prison.
After the hearing, Lehman said the PTO simply wants its money back.
"We were hoping to work it out, but she would not cooperate," he said.
The case: The crime came to light in February 2012 when Lehman was notified by the PTO's bank that the account had been closed because it was more than $1,900 in the red, according to court documents.
Lehman approached Smith, who said she'd requested an audit be done by a local accounting firm, police said.
In March 2012, Smith gave Lehman a copy of a document from that accounting firm, indicating the PTO account was under review.
But Smith had forged the document, police said.
On Aug. 29, she pleaded guilty to the third-degree felonies of theft and forgery.
-- Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at email@example.com.