An employee of Kreutz Creek Valley VFW in Hellam Township stole about $32,000 from the post last fall after getting caught up in an Internet scam and going through her own life savings, according to police and her attorney.
Sharon Livelsberger, 55, of 24 Locust Grove Road, Apt. E, in Springettsbury Township, remains free on $35,000 bail, charged with theft by unlawful taking and theft by failure to make required disposition of funds. Both offenses are third-degree misdemeanors.
Charging documents filed by Hellam Township Police on Dec. 13 allege Livelsberger stole $32,196.63 within a week's time in November, when she was employed as manager of the VFW post, 341 Yorkana Road.
She told Officer Justin Golder she gambled away the money in an online scam, in which "she was told over and over she would see returns on (the cash) she was providing the subjects," her arrest affidavit states.
Livelsberger also said she wired the scammers cash from several Western Union sites daily, documents state, and provided police with documentation of that.
'Good person': Defense attorney Albert Barnes said Livelsberger has acknowledged responsibility for her actions.
"She is very remorseful and we want to get (the case) resolved as quickly ... as possible," he said.
Barnes said he's hoping to resolve the charges without a trial and said it's Livelsberger's intention to pay back the money she stole.
"She's a good person. She's been a steward at the Hellam VFW for quite awhile," he said. "She lost her life savings and a little bit more."
Barnes said the scammers convinced Livelsberger they could get her money back, but she needed to send them more money for that to happen.
"And somewhere along the way they did send her some money," he said, keeping alive her hope she could get all of it back.
Eventually, the scammers threatened Livelsberger because she was trying to get her money back, according to her attorney.
FBI contacted: Barnes said he and his client have been in contact with the FBI in hopes they can track down the scammers and recover the money Livelsberger lost.
"The thing that gets me is I've had other clients who've been scammed or defrauded over the Internet," he said. "People just don't realize how competent (scammers) are ... at developing a relationship with somebody and then taking advantage of that relationship. They're very good at being bad."
Police said they were first contacted about the VFW's missing cash by VFW board member Mike Dupler. He's a former Hellam Township police chief.
Bonded: Dupler said Livelsberger had been with the Kreutz Creek Valley VFW for about eight years. She's no longer employed there, he said.
Livelsberger was bonded for her job, meaning the post will eventually recover most of the stolen money, according to Dupler, who described Livelsberger as a nice person.
"The whole thing's just unfortunate, but that doesn't relieve her of responsibility," he said.
-- Staff writer Liz Evans Scolforo can also be reached at email@example.com.