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DA: Nancy and William Tonkin face charges of embezzling $850K

By John Craven, Reporter, JCraven@wfmz.com
Published On: May 21 2013 11:13:07 AM CDT
Updated On: May 22 2013 04:44:42 AM CDT

He was supposed to nab thieves, but Lehigh County prosecutors said an ex-cop and his wife stole nearly $1 million from South Whitehall Township taxpayers.

SOUTH WHITEHALL TWP., Pa. -

He was supposed to nab thieves, but Lehigh County prosecutors said an ex-cop and his wife stole nearly $1 million from South Whitehall Township taxpayers. The alleged scheme went on for nearly 14 years, according to authorities.

The casino table is where Nancy and William Tonkin gambled away years of South Whitehall utility customers' payments, according to a grand jury report.

"Nancy Tonkin lost $94,785 and her husband lost $21,452," said Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin.

Nancy Tonkin ran the township's utilities department for nearly three decades. Her husband, William, is a former cop, now working security for William Allen High School. Together, prosecutors claim the couple stole more than $850,000 between at least 1999 and 2012.

A grand jury found that when customers paid in cash, Nancy Tonkin simply pocketed the money. Their report claims she covered the missing cash with later customer payments made with checks.

Accounts that were past due at the end of the quarter were simply forgiven.

"So, basically what she was doing was robbing Peter to pay Paul," said Martin.

So how did this allegedly go on for so many years?  Martin blamed a weak auditing system at the township offices -- a system that has since been overhauled.

"The cash register was not connected to a computer server or the township accounting systems," he said.

When South Whitehall's current township manager took over in 2010, he said his new management team immediately became suspicious of Nancy Tonkins.

"Things just weren't adding up," said manager Jon Hammer.  "It didn't make sense."

Hammer hired a CPA and a fraud expert to investigate.  The grand jury spent almost a year investigating.

"It gives us a black eye, but we're committed to moving forward," Hammer acknowledged.  "In the past year, we've been working hard to add new internal controls, new policies and procedures.  We've purchased an entirely new financial software package."

Hammer said the township hopes to recover some of the money from the Tonkins themselves.  An insurance policy could cover the rest, he said.

William Tonkin still receives a police pension, as well, but Martin said he's not sure if it can legally be taken away.

Anyone who feels like their utility payments may been stolen in the alleged scheme can call South Whitehall Township at 610-794-1330 or email residentconcerns@southwhitehall.com

The township will also post updates on the situation on its website.