By Roger DuPuis | The Times Leader
WILKES-BARRE — Former West Wyoming police chief David Gashi will not face theft charges as long as he pays back $18,000 after his pension was increased as a result of additional payments to which he was not entitled.
Gashi’s lawyer said his client did not commit any crime, and the payments were the result of clerical errors and another person’s misdeeds.
“Chief Gashi is a very upstanding citizen who did nothing to warrant these charges,” attorney Chris Powell said.
Luzerne County Judge Michael T. Vough agreed to the Rule 586 disposition of Gashi’s case Monday morning. Under state law, that rule gives the court authority to dismiss charges so long as certain conditions are met, including the consent of prosecutors and agreement that satisfaction will be made.
Senior Deputy Attorney General Anthony W. Forray prosecuted the case for the commonwealth.
“A resolution, whereby the defendant repaid money owed to the borough/municipality without acknowledgment of criminal responsibility, was consistent with the available evidence in this case,” said Senior Executive Deputy Attorney General and Director of Communuications Joseph C. Peters.
Gashi, 70, was accused of two counts of theft alleging he received $13,699 in duplicate pay, which eventually inflated his pension. Under Monday’s ruling, Gashi has 30 days to pay back a total of $18,465, which includes payments to the police pension fund and the borough.
According to an affidavit filed by state police who investigated the case, an agent with the state Auditor General’s Office found there were 22 instances in which Gashi received advances or duplicate pay between 2005 and 2008. In nine of the 22 instances, evidence showed the funds were deposited into Gashi’s bank account, troopers said, totalling $13,699.
In November 2008, the affidavit says, Gashi was offered a $19,000 buyout from the borough. He accepted and retired on Jan. 1, 2009, after 38 years of service, 20 as chief.
When questioned by state police, Gashi denied receiving additional paychecks, troopers said, except for one extra paycheck sometime during that period, though he could not remember in which year.
When he asked then-borough manager Thomas Loftus about that check, Gashi allegedly told troopers, “he said Loftus told him, ‘Just take it, it’s for vacation time.’ ”
Under investigation into various financial irregularities, Loftus was suspended and then terminated by council in November 2009. The investigation closed after Loftus died on Dec. 11, 2009.
“He didn’t take any duplicate pay,” Powell said of Gashi. Instead, Powell added, 11 or 12 of the instances cited in the affidavit involved forgeries committed by some other person. When asked who committed the forgeries, Powell said: “I know, but I don’t want to tell you that. They’re no longer living.”
As for the remaining payments, Powell said they were the result of clerical errors of which Gashi had not been aware, and his client intends “to do the right thing” by paying the money back as directed.
Gashi’s fate differs from that of another ex-chief who was facing theft charges for receiving extra paychecks.
In October, Stanley Sipko, 44, agreed to pay back the $12,991 he owed the borough within one year. Vough also sentenced Sipko to serve one year in the county’s Accelerated Rehabilitation Program, a special probationary sentence for first-time non-violent offenders.