BIG RUN — Following more than a year of investigation, Pennsylvania State Police have filed charges related to the alleged financial theft that occurred through the Big Run War Memorial Fund.
The investigation was launched in October 2019 after probable cause was found by Allegheny Forensic Accounting of St. Marys, after a concerned citizen hired them to investigate the War Memorial Fund.
The fund was established in July 2015, and was meant to help raise funds to renovate the building, and relieve some of the burden of the upkeep from the taxpayers. A concerned citizen group was formed when residents noticed “a pattern of inconsistent treatment of citizens, and a lack of communication,” according to an article previously published by the Courier Express.
Punxsutawney-based state police filed charges against Bonita Kay Haugh, 67, of Punxsutawney, on April 26, including one third-degree felony for theft by deception.
According to an affidavit of probable cause, Haugh made false or misleading statements and advertising for the purpose of promoting purchases regarding the Big Run War Memorial along with thefts relative to Big Run Borough funds.
Haugh allegedly wrote out an “inordinate” amount of checks for cash utilizing the Big Run Borough accounts and about $19,000 is absent an explanation for disbursement, authorities said. Police noted these criminal acts occurred from July 2015 to the start of the investigation.
Haugh was interviewed by police in October 2019, during which police noted she allegedly made inconsistent statements and several lies. This allegedly led to numerous admissions and her allegedly confessing to stealing the money from the Big Run War Memorial Fund, according to the affidavit. She allegedly stated the total could be around $3,000 to $4,000, then later said she couldn’t believe it would be more than $4,000 or $5,000.
She was interviewed again in August 2020, during which officers went over the checks that were written to “cash.” Haugh was unable to provide a legitimate purpose for checks.
A polygraph was scheduled for September 2020, but was not conducted because Haugh allegedly admitted to using Big Run War Memorial Fund for her personal use, according to the affidavit. She told police if she wrote any checks for personal use, it would have been one check for $400 that was used to pay a utility bill, and that she replaced it when she got paid. She then told police the total amount could not be more than $900, as she wrote the $400 and a second for $500 that were both used for utility bills.
Based on the checks analyzed from March 1, 2016 to Feb. 28, 2017, and Haugh’s admission, a total of about $5,000 is deemed to be misappropriated with no explanation, according to the affidavit.
Haugh has a preliminary hearing scheduled for May 25, with Magisterial District Judge David Inzana.