CLEARFIELD – A treasurer accused of stealing more than $10,000 from a memorial fund he helped manage had all charges held for court by Magisterial District Judge Richard Ireland after a preliminary hearing Wednesday at the Clearfield County Jail.
Frank Charles Stewart, 48, of Ramey has been charged with theft by unlawful taking and receiving stolen property. His bail has been set at $50,000 monetary, which he’s posted.
Clearfield County District Attorney William A. Shaw Jr. presented the case on behalf of the commonwealth. Defense attorney Ron Collins represented Stewart at the preliminary hearing.
Mary E. Cusick of Houtzdale testified first on behalf of the commonwealth. She said her son, Lance, had passed away due to illness in 2003. After that they informally established a memorial fund and a bank account at M&T Bank in Houtzdale.
The Lance Cusick Memorial Fund, she said, consisted of close friends, and they had officers and approved items of business in meetings. She said Stewart served as treasurer and helped with managing the bank account with the fund’s president.
Initially, she said they wanted to establish a ball field in memory of her son. However, she said those plans never worked out and the fund’s members eventually stopped meeting in 2004 or 2005. As a result, funds raised toward the ball field were left sitting in a bank account.
Cusick said her son would have graduated in 2014. In September of 2013, she said his kindergarten teacher approached her, as his class wanted to award a one-time scholarship in his name. As a result, Cusick received advice about the proper channels for proceeding and was directed to see the memorial fund’s banking institution.
Cusick went to M&T Bank in September of 2013, at which time she was notified the fund had been closed. Upon her own investigation, Cusick found Stewart had removed the $10,496.62 that was in the bank account on June 28, 2010, which was never voted upon and authorized by the fund’s officers.
On Jan. 13, 2014, Cusick said that Stewart showed up at her residence three times. During his last visit, Stewart told her he hadn’t done anything wrong to which she replied that he had, or he wouldn’t have been there. After Stewart left, Cusick found papers that he’d thrown inside her door.
One check, she said, was written in the amount of $5,000. The other check, she said, was written in the amount of $5,496.62. Both checks were dated Jan. 13 and wrapped in a copy of the check that closed the Lance Cusick Memorial Fund on June 28, 2010. When asked, she indicated that she hadn’t seen these checks prior to Stewart’s visit.
Trooper Terry Jordan of the Clearfield-based state police testified about tracing the check that closed the fund’s M&T Bank account. During his investigation, he obtained a search warrant for Stewart’s expense account at CNB Bank, Clearfield, and was provided with the account history.
Jordan found the account information showed the M&T Bank check for $10,496.62 was deposited on June 28, 2010. The next day, he said a phone transfer occurred and $8,000 was put into another account, which was also owned by Stewart.
As a result, Jordan obtained another search warrant on Stewart’s second account at CNB Bank. He found the account information showed a deposit of $8,000 on June 29, 2010. It also showed two checks to the Tax Claim Bureau for $6,132.56 and for $306.19 that were dated June 29, 2010 to pay off tax debt from 2009.
During his closing, Collins argued that the Lance Cusick Memorial Fund was informally established and stopped functioning after a couple of years. Collins argued that the memorial fund’s money was fungible, and there wasn’t any evidence of any being missing.
Shaw countered by saying that the memorial fund was created to raise money for a ball field. Stewart, he said, was entrusted with the bank account; however, any use of funds required authorization from the fund’s members.
He said the commonwealth presented evidence showing that Stewart deposited a check for more than $10,000 from the Lance Cusick Memorial Fund into his expense account without any authorization.
The next day, Shaw said Stewart transferred $8,000 to another account, also in his name, and used it to pay the previous year’s taxes. “He never had any authority from the fund to use that money for personal use.
“And, last week he shows up with checks that are in excess of $10,000 and tries to give them to Mary Cusick. You don’t give back $10,000 if you didn’t steal it.”
Shaw said that Stewart was almost giving an admission by trying to give the checks to Cusick.