Ex-cafeteria workers accused of gambling away $94K in stolen money, police say

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CHARLEROI, Pa. —

Two former school cafeteria workers in Charleroi are facing theft and other charges for allegedly gambling away almost $94,000 they stole from the school district.

Authorities said Lee Shipley, 50, and Sheila Ann Cook, 49, are facing a variety of charges, including felony theft, receiving stolen property, and  misdemeanor forgery.

According to police, they were charged after Charleroi school officials reported that money was missing from the cafeteria fund. The school performed an audit and determined that starting in August 2010, $93,987 was missing.

“They were just people that I’ve known, and could go down to the cafeteria and talk to. But they made a mistake,” Superintendent Dr. Brad Ferko said.

Ferko said Shipley handled the daily deposits from cafeteria sales, and instead of putting the money into the school’s safe, she took it home.

Shipley would then rig her register so it wouldn’t show that any money was missing, Ferko said.

“The money was taken after it had already been placed in the student’s accounts. No student was ever denied a lunch,” Ferko said.

According to Ferko, the school district is implementing new measures to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.

Police said Shipley would give some of the money to Cook, and the two of them would gamble the money at the Meadows Casino. They allegedly used the school’s money and split their winnings 50-50 for more than two years.

“The taxpayers need to know that there will be a full accounting of what this has cost the district and we’re hoping to get those costs back,” Ferko said.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Feb. 25.