Hearing Continued for Former Office Manager Accused of Stealing from Accounting Firm

CLEARFIELD – A former office manager accused of stealing more than $107,000 from Walter Hopkins and Company LLP of Clearfield had her preliminary hearing continued until Aug. 13 during Centralized Court on Wednesday at the Clearfield County Jail.

Jonelle S. Smeal, 47, of Woodland has been charged with theft by unlawful taking (101 counts); theft by deception (34 counts); forgery (66 counts); access device issued to another who did not authorize use (42 counts); other reason access device is unauthorized by issuer (42 counts); receiving stolen property (101 counts); and tampering with records or ID-writing.

On April 28, Lawrence Township police were contacted by Katherine Eckley and Erik Elensky, who are certified public accountants with Walter Hopkins and Company, about an alleged theft at the accounting firm.

Eckley told police that Smeal had been terminated as the office manager on Feb. 25. She said it was discovered that Smeal was using two of the accounting firm’s credit cards for personal purchases at places, such as Vemma Nutrition Company, Cheryl’s cookies and brownies, Facebook, Travelocity and U.S. Airways.

After her termination, it was found that Smeal had used a checking account issued to Walter Hopkins and Company in order to pay on a credit card. The credit card account was opened on June 6, 1997; Smeal was listed as an authorized user.  It was noted that the credit card was not affiliated with Walter Hopkins and Company. At this time, it was also found that Smeal received additional payments through payroll, which she hadn’t earned as an employee.

According to the affidavit of probable cause, an investigation revealed that Smeal deprived the accounting firm of $93,412.59 by writing 45 checks from its checking account to pay on a personal credit card. She also deprived the accounting firm of $2,043.08 by writing five checks to herself without authorization.

Smeal, the affidavit alleges, used “deceptive means” to obtain signatures on 17 checks issued to Walter Hopkins and Company. She presented the checks to members of the accounting firm under the pretense that they would be submitted as payment on Walter Hopkins and Company accounts. Upon investigation it was found she had submitted the payments on a personal account. The affidavit also alleges that Smeal forged the signature of Elensky on 33 checks.

According to the affidavit of probable cause, Smeal deprived Walter Hopkins and Company of $7,662.26 by using one of its credit cards 20 times. She further deprived the accounting firm of $3,222.60 by using another credit card 22 times. Smeal allegedly used both Walter Hopkins and Company credit cards without authorization and for personal use.

As the office manager, Smeal was responsible for calling ADP Easy Pay and providing them information about hours worked by employees. It was noted that she was responsible for reporting her own work hours.

On eight occasions, Smeal allegedly didn’t provide correct information regarding her work hours. The investigation showed that Smeal received a total of $1,251.28 in pay overage between February of 2012 and April of 2013.

Smeal was also responsible for compiling a reconciliation detail report for Walter Hopkins and Company’s banking institution. When she prepared the report for Jan. 1 – Dec. 31, 2013, Smeal allegedly altered the amount of some payments to reflect a higher amount.

Also, she allegedly didn’t record all checks written from the accounting firm’s bank account to a personal credit card account. Smeal, the affidavit alleges, intentionally altered the reconciliation report to conceal her acts of theft.

Smeal was employed with Walter Hopkins and Company from March 17, 2009 until her termination on Feb. 25. Smeal allegedly stole a total of $107,591.81 from the accounting firm, according to the affidavit of probable cause.

 

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