Aug. 29--The former Millrift Fire Department treasurer charged with the theft of $10,288 from the department, and who was mentioned in part of a Westfall Township political scandal, has pleaded guilty to taking the money.
Massiel Edwards, 39, has been in the Pike County Correctional Facility on $50,000 bond since being arrested on a warrant March 6 in Manhattan by New York City police.
She appeared before Pike County Judge Joseph Kameen in a blue prison uniform Thursday and quietly pleaded guilty.
Initially, Edwards intended to take the case to trial, but she failed to appear last Nov. 1 for jury selection for her trial. A nationwide bench warrant was issued Nov. 5, and she was found in March in Manhattan.
Edwards admitted to Eastern Pike Regional Police in October 2012 that she took money from the department for personal use.
The crime was discovered after fire department officials requested department financial records from the bank, noticed unauthorized ATM withdrawals and reported them to police.
An accountant examined the department's financial statements and found that Edwards had also written some checks and that she had falsified the treasurer's report, showing bills had been paid, when in reality they had not been paid, according to a criminal complaint.
Edwards used the money to pay for her property taxes; had propane delivered to her home; paid electric bills to Orange & Rockland Utilities; paid a $500 Cablevision bill; paid $1,086 to Verizon Wireless for items and services; and withdrew cash on at least 20 occasions, police said.
Since the initial charges were filed, Edwards went through a divorce and now goes by the name Massiel Lago. She now waits to be sentenced.
In October 2012, Westfall Supervisor Larry Flansburg intervened in Edwards' case by trying to talk fire department members and Eastern Pike Regional Police officials into dropping the charges against Edwards, and threatening that failure to do so could result in cutting of police and fire department budgets, according to papers from the state police. Flansburg has been charged with a number of ethics violations, including retaliation for past official action, criminal attempt to obstruct administration of law or other governmental functions, and intimidation of witnesses and victims.
Flansburg is awaiting his next court date. He is still a township supervisor but is not attending meetings until the matter is resolved.
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