DUBOIS – A Havertown woman has pleaded guilty to theft for trying to con money from a local church.
Michele Thompson, 47, 26 Colfax Rd., Havertown was charged by DuBois City police with theft by deception and receiving stolen property, both misdemeanors of the first degree for her actions on Nov. 23 when she lied to representatives of St. Catherine’s Church to get financial assistance.
Thompson pleaded guilty Friday during Centralized Court to a lesser charge of theft by deception, a misdemeanor of the third degree. The other charge was withdrawn. She must pay fines and costs totaling $472.50.
According to the affidavit of probable cause, police were called to the S&T Bank on Liberty Boulevard because someone was trying to cash a stolen check. When police arrived, they met with Mary Rossi, who is the office manager at St. Catherine’s Church.
She told them that a woman had contacted her earlier that day requesting financial assistance. The woman identified herself as Michele Thompson of Brockway and claimed to own a property in DuBois. Thompson stated that her tenant, Jennifer Douglas, was behind in rent and needed assistance from the church.
Thompson claimed to be calling on behalf of Douglas as an alternative to starting the eviction process. She said Douglas was behind nearly $1,000 in her rent. Rossi said she agreed to help and transferred Thompson to Monsignor Richard Siefer.
Thompson was issued a check for $200 and two $25 Martin’s Grocery gift cards. She arrived at the church in an old brown coupe and collected the donations, identifying herself as Douglas. Moments after this Rossi received a phone call from S&T Bank requesting permission to cash the check for Thompson. At this point, Rossi realized Thompson had deceived the church.
Rossi immediately contacted police and went to the bank. Upon arriving Rossi recognized the brown car in the parking lot. She parked behind the vehicle to prevent Thompson from escaping. Rossi then went into the bank where she confronted Thompson and demanded she return the check and gift cards.
According to Rossi, Thompson returned the check and then exited the bank. She got into the passenger seat of the brown car. Rossi demanded Thompson return the gift cards. Thompson gave her one of the cards but said she had already used the other card and refused to provide Rossi with a receipt.
When Rossi started taking photos of Thompson for evidence, Thompson allegedly quickly turned her head away and stated “stop taking pictures. I’m in enough trouble as it is and don’t need any more trouble.” Rossi said Thompson then exited the vehicle and fled the area, running in a northeast direction.
Officers searched the area but were unable to locate her.
Police spoke to the owner of the brown car who said he only met Thompson recently at a friend’s residence. He said he got a call from her requesting transportation from the DuBois Mall to the church and then to S&T Bank. He said he also stopped at Martin’s Grocery store where Thompson purchased cigarettes with one of the gift cards.
He said he had no knowledge of Thompson’s criminal intentions and was only trying to help her by providing transportation. She had told him that she was attempting to go to Philadelphia by bus. He didn’t know where she was staying locally.
Monsignor Siefer confirmed what Rossi had told police, although he said Thompson told him Douglas was only in need of $380 in cash. He said he agreed to provide her with some assistance but not all of the needed cash.
Police spoke with the S&T bank employee who dealt with Thompson. She said she immediately contacted Rossi for permission to cash the check. After speaking with Rossi, she attempted to keep Thompson in the bank until Rossi and police arrived.
She told Thompson to remain on the scene and Thompson remained seated in the lobby until Rossi arrived.