The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

March 20, 2013

Woman accused of PTO theft begs to stay out of jail

Kathy Mellott

EVERETT — Nearly three dozen counts of forgery and related charges against a western Bedford County woman accused of stealing more than $11,000 from the Chestnut Ridge Parent Teacher Organization will go to the county court for trial.

In waiving her right to a preliminary hearing at Bedford County Central Court in Everett on Wednesday, Leanna Gottshall tearfully said she would spend 100 years on probation but

didn’t want to go to jail because she has children.

State police said Gottshall pocketed funds earned by children, including $26 in cash raised by students selling pencils, and spent the money on personal expenses.

“We’re not talking any deals. Right now I want to see how much she can come up with to make restitution to this organization,” District Attorney William Higgins said.

Gottshall, 33, of Osterburg, was charged a week ago and is free on $75,000 unsecured bail.

Police said she took over as PTO treasurer in June and three months later was cashing checks she had made out to herself. Some of the checks included the forged signature of PTO President Kimberly Mickle.

The final check was written Feb. 15.

Mickle reported that she had started receiving letters from vendors who dealt with the PTO and were trying to collect their money, police said in a criminal complaint.

Mickle said that when she questioned Gottshall about money owed to Scholastic Book Fair, Gottshall said she had just mailed the check because she had misplaced it earlier. When questioned about a letter from a second vendor seeking payment, Gottshall told Mickle she had just sent the check, police said in the complaint.

Mickle said that when she reviewed the financial ledger kept by Gottshall, the figures did not add up. After contacting First Commonwealth Bank in Pleasantville, Mickle told police she learned the check had been made out to Gottshall and had been cashed.

Troopers said Gottshall has admitted taking the money.

Along with $11,075 obtained through personal checks, Gottshall is accused of taking cash that included $60 from a fundraising event, $168.53 from candy bar sales and $26 from the sale of pencils.

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