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No prison time for vo-tech employee who stole $34K
A former York County School of Technology employee has avoided prison, despite stealing about $34,000 from adult students' accounts over a period of six years.
Arlene F. Rossbach appeared in York County Court on Monday and pleaded guilty to a third-degree felony count of theft. She was the school's adult education administrative assistant, according to school records.
As part of a negotiated plea agreement with prosecutors, she was sentenced to five years of probation and ordered to pay restitution to the school in the amount of $32,636.
"I am in the process of looking for work," Rossbach told presiding Common Pleas Judge Maria Musti Cook.
The judge noted in court that the sentence is below the state's standard guideline range but that the plea agreement was crafted "with the hope the defendant could actually make restitution to the school if she's not incarcerated."
Rossbach, 53, of 2428 Brillhart Station Road in York Township, must pay no less than $550 per month toward restitution, Cook ordered.
Rossbach declined comment as she left the courtroom.
Her attorney, public defender Jim Rader, said he's grateful the technology school supported the proposed plea agreement that allowed Rossbach to avoid prison and instead pay restitution.
Rader said the charges had been hanging over Rossbach's head and acknowledged that with a felony conviction, "her job opportunities are going to be somewhat limited."
Senior prosecutor Duane Ramseur declined comment.
The background: Rossbach resigned from the school Jan. 13 after meeting with school officials and admitting to stealing students' money, court documents state.
"Once we discovered this theft, the employee immediately admitted to it and immediately resigned," Jon Boyer, the technology school's business administrator, said in April, after charges were filed against Rossbach.
She was with the school for about 15 years, he said.
Boyer contacted York Area Regional Police Jan. 19 to alert them to the situation, charging documents state.
He reported that on Jan. 7, a student in the adult-education program came to the front office with a deposit receipt and asked about the status of his account, according to police.
A copy of the deposit receipt was found, but there was no record of the money being applied to the student's account, documents allege. More research determined there were "multiple cases" in which adult-education students' money was stolen, according to documents.
"She was taking small amounts over a lengthy period of time," Boyer has said.
The next day, Jan. 8, school officials secured the corresponding receipt books and other related paperwork in a locked storage area, police said.
'Ghost' receipt book: It appears Rossbach used a "ghost" receipt book when students gave her cash, then kept the students' money, according to charging documents.
Just hours after Rossbach resigned, she called a co-worker at the school "and asked him to locate and destroy the receipt books," court documents state. Instead, the man notified school administrators and showed them Rossbach's text messages to him, according to police.
An audit determined money had not been deposited into accounts going back to 2010, documents state, adding Rossbach was responsible for deposits during those years.
Boyer provided police with documentation showing $34,126 was missing, but because the five-year statute of limitations had run out on some of the thefts, Rossbach is officially accused of stealing $32,636, according to charging documents.
"Arlene told (Boyer) she only did it because her house was being foreclosed on and (she) was going to pay it back with her tax return," documents state, but she made that alleged statement before the audit determined how much money had been stolen.
No student losses: York Area Regional Police Sgt. Peter Montgomery has said the students involved were all in the adult-education program and needed to put money into accounts to cover costs of continuing testing, such as CDL truck-driver license testing or updated nursing tests.
"Some would pay in cash," he said, and it was that cash Rossbach stole.
However, none of the adult-education students were out any money because they all were administered the tests they paid for, even if the money they gave Rossbach wasn't deposited, according to both Montgomery and Boyer.
"So no student was out any service that they paid for," Boyer said.
He said the school has added more safeguards to ensure such thefts can't happen again.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.