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Woman spends thousands in taxpayer money on a psychic

The former Industry borough secretary tearfully described Wednesday how she spent “probably up in the thousands” of taxpayer dollars on a psychic, trying to contact someone in the afterlife.

Though Shelly R. Elkins, 34, of 218 Paradise Road, Industry, promised to pay back as much money as she could to the borough, it’s unlikely she’ll make much of a dent in her debt, which amounts to more than $200,000.

Elkins said she’s currently being paid minimum wage for a part-time job at the Center Township Eat’n Park.

Beaver County Senior Judge George James gave Elkins at least a chance to pay back some of the money. As he sentenced Elkins on Wednesday to between 11½ and 23½ months in the Beaver County Jail, followed by five years’ probation, he said she could be on work release, to continue earning an income. She had pleaded guilty to a single felony count of theft.

In all, state police said Elkins stole nearly $215,000 from the borough, between the beginning of 2005 and near the end of 2007. They alleged Elkins used the money on vacations, pet-related items, credit card bills, utilities and other personal expenses.

James said the county’s adult probation office will determine the exact amount of restitution that Elkins will be required to pay. Though she said she disputed some of the numbers contained in an auditor’s report that listed the money taken, she admitted that she took nearly all of the money.

Defense attorney Myron Sainovich said Elkins, who has no prior criminal record, didn’t use the money to fund a lavish lifestyle.

Elkins said there’s no jewelry, no luxury items that she could sell to pay back the debt. The only item prosecutors were able to seize was a Ford Mustang that Elkins bought for $6,000 using borough money.

“I understand what I did was wrong,” Elkins said. “I hurt so many people doing this.”

Beaver County Assistant District Attorney Kevin Kindred said Elkins’ actions “devastated a lot of people.”

James said he reserved the right to reconsider Elkins’ sentence if she doesn’t live up to her promise to start paying money back.

Last month, Industry Council President Keith Hohenshel said the borough has already received $40,000 in insurance money, but doubted that much of the rest of the money could be recouped.

Elkins acknowledged Wednesday that she could face a civil lawsuit from the insurance company, as it seeks to get its money back as well.

Hohenshel said new procedures have been put into place to prevent future thefts, including stapling receipts to checks and keeping better track of purchase orders.

Wednesday, Industry Police Chief Garold Miller said that he and the current borough secretary, Kimberly A. Kelley, conducted an extensive investigation of borough financial records in the wake of Elkins’ theft.

Miller said there was no evidence that anyone else in the borough was involved in the thefts.

Source: Times Online

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