York County storm chaser grounded for kiting check
A York County storm chaser has been temporarily grounded for kiting a business check on a closed bank account, but he'll be free to hunt hurricanes before the season ends.
Brad Matthew Sweitzer Sr., 42, of East Prospect, pleaded guilty Wednesday, Aug. 14, to the first-degree misdemeanor of writing or passing a bad check, according to court records.
He is CEO and president of SS Storm Chase and Forecast Team - Mid Atlantic LLC, according to his Facebook page.
In exchange for his plea, a third-degree felony charge of theft by deception was dismissed.
As part of his negotiated agreement with prosecutors, Sweitzer was sentenced to three years' probation, with the first 30 days on house arrest.
Presiding Common Pleas Judge Maria Musti Cook said Sweitzer may be granted leave from house arrest with prior notification to the county probation department, records state.
Cook also ordered Sweitzer to pay restitution within 30 days and perform 100 hours of community service.
Defense attorney Marc Semke said Sweitzer provided him the entire $5,300 some time ago, which Semke put in escrow to await resolution of the criminal case.
The money will now be given to the bank, he said, adding that was Sweitzer's intention "from the beginning."
The background: State police filed charges against Sweitzer in October, stating he defrauded the East Prospect branch of BB&T Bank in September 2018, just before leaving town to cover Hurricane Florence in North Carolina.
He deposited a business check for $5,300 on an account he knew had been closed, but the bank didn't initially know that, police said.
Sweitzer has disputed it was a business check and has told The York Dispatch that it was a personal check. He also has said he didn't know why police thought he knew the account was closed.
At the bank, Sweitzer told the branch manager that he was heading to North Carolina the next day and needed a check cleared, according to court documents.
The bank manager was familiar with both Sweitzer and his storm-chasing corporation, police said.
Agreement: They agreed the funds would be made available to him the next day and that Sweitzer would return then to get $3,000 of it, according to police.
Instead, Sweitzer went to a Springettsbury Township branch of BB&T, withdrew $3,000 and wired the remaining $2,300 out of the account, court documents state.
Two days after that, on Sept. 10, 2018, BB&T Bank was notified that the account from which the check was written had been closed, police said.
Sweitzer co-founded Red Lion-based SS Storm Chase and Forecast Team in 2013, he has told The York Dispatch.
As a storm approached in early 2016, SS Storm Chase showed models anticipating 2 to 3 feet of snow. Those models ended up being close to the actual snowfall amounts.
In addition to covering Hurricane Florence in North Carolina last year, SS Storm Chase also covered Hurricane Irma when it hit Florida in 2017 and Hurricane Matthew when it hit the Carolinas in 2016.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.