Even in Chester County, the lifestyle led by Lisa Moore seemed a little extravagant for a township manager. Jet-setting to Italy and France, taking shopping sprees for designer clothes and jewelry.
But that’s what an extra $3 million siphoned from taxpayers bought her, according to county investigators.
Moore, 46, was charged Tuesday with masterminding what District Attorney Thomas P. Hogan called a “long-running, multipronged scheme” that defrauded millions from Kennett Township over eight years.
She hid her tracks in a variety of ways, in some cases laundering the stolen money by shuffling payments through multiple township accounts, investigators said. At one point, she allegedly created a sham marriage, forging documents to provide more than $50,000 in medical benefits to a friend.
“This case is all about greed,” Hogan said. “The defendant was well-compensated ... but she decided to live the high life, funded by the taxpayers of Kennett Township. There is no excuse for such a blatant abuse of a position of trust.”
Moore was charged with multiple counts of theft by unlawful taking, forgery, tampering with public records, and related offenses. She was released on $500,000 unsecured bail after an arraignment Tuesday morning.
Her attorney, Lee Ciccarelli, said Tuesday that he plans to “fully defend this case.”
“We certainly look forward for the truth to come out,” he said. “We’re not simply abiding by the commonwealth’s accusations. And we believe once the commonwealth releases to us their quote-unquote ‘evidence’ we’ll be in a better position to further defend her interests.”
Moore’s alleged scheme unraveled in April, when fraud investigators from Capital One flagged three years’ worth of suspicious money transfers from a township business account to Moore’s personal checking account, according to the affidavit filed in her arrest. Those types of transfers were unusual, the investigators told township supervisors. And so was the amount: more than $756,000 starting in May 2016.
Township supervisors fired Moore shortly after the alleged fraud was discovered, offering little explanation beside “suspicious bank transactions,” according to a statement released at the time. She had worked for the township — in the heart of the state’s mushroom-growing region —for more than 20 years, according to investigators.
During an interview with county detectives, Moore admitted to cutting checks to herself directly from the township general fund to avoid payroll taxes. She said she understood that “what she was doing was not proper,” the affidavit said.
Investigators estimate that she inflated her annual salary — which rose to $130,000 during the alleged scheme — to as much as $297,000 by falsely boosting what she was owed for unused comp time. She authorized those and other payments by forging the signature of Township Supervisor Scudder Stevens using a stamp molded to resemble his handwriting, according to investigators.
Stevens, when questioned by detectives, said he had no idea Moore had created the stamp.
In a letter sent to township residents Tuesday, Stevens said he and his colleagues on the board of supervisors are continuing to cooperate with investigators.
“Like so many in Kennett Township,” Stevens wrote, “the supervisors are shocked that a former and once-trusted township manager allegedly misused her authority to steal taxpayer money and cover it up for so long.”
A public meeting to discuss the investigation will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Red Clay Room, 423 Dalmation St., Kennett Square, according to Stevens.
Moore hid her activity by not recording the disbursements to her personal account, according to the affidavit. In some instances, she allegedly mislabeled them as payments to vendors contracting with the township.
Financial records reviewed by investigators show she used the allegedly ill-gotten funds to pay credit-card balances and mortgage payments, among other things. She took some of the money as cash, according to court documents.
Moore’s arrest comes on the heels of a minor controversy for the township: In October, former supervisor and local political fixture Michael E. Elling was caught on video stealing political lawn signs endorsing the Democrat who succeeded him on the board.
Elling, a Republican, was charged with theft by unlawful taking. The case is pending.