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House arrest for ex-Home and School chief in thefts

Former Philadelphia Home and School Council president Greg Wade was sentenced yesterday to house arrest and probation for stealing more than $115,000 from the school district parents' group.

Former Philadelphia Home and School Council president Greg Wade was sentenced yesterday to house arrest and probation for stealing more than $115,000 from the school district parents' group.

Outraged council members present at the sentencing said they planned to rally parents to protest the decision. In statements made before the sentencing, they called for jail time for their disgraced former leader.

Wade, 54, pleaded guilty May 26 to four counts of felony theft for stealing from the nonprofit association.

Common Pleas Court Judge Joyce Eubanks sentenced him to between 111/2 and 23 months of house arrest for the first count of theft, followed by 54 months of probation - 18 months for each of the three remaining charges.

She also ordered Wade to repay the stolen funds, but said she did not know how or when he would do so.

Wade admitted forging 145 checks for personal use and purchasing a 2009 Dodge Journey with council money during his tenure as president. He also hired two staff members, which he was not allowed to do as a volunteer.

Before handing down the sentence, Eubanks heard statements from six members of the parents' group.

Council president Delores Solomon testified that as a result of Wade's thefts, the group had been unable to pay out annual college scholarships to graduating high school seniors since 2007.

Former council secretary and current volunteer Rose Lentz called Wade a "master manipulator," testifying that he lied about his wife, Mary, being in a coma to get support from fellow members.

"Your epitaph should read: 'Stole from the children of the School District of Philadelphia,' " Lentz said, reading from a statement.

Also reading from a statement, Wade apologized for his misdeeds.

"This is one of the worst days of my life," he said. "I never want to hurt the people who love me again."

He said that he took the money to assist friends who needed help paying bills as well as for personal use. He also testified that he is enrolled in a work-training program for offenders and is seeing a therapist weekly.

Questioning Wade's sincerity, Assistant District Attorney Nick Liermann requested a sentence of at least two years of jail time.

"This man sitting in front of you is a liar, a thief, and a con man," Liermann said during the hearing. "He will lie about anything to get what he wants."

Roberts argued that Wade, who has no prior criminal record, deserved a second chance.

"There is no benefit of incarceration," she said. "Allow him to rebuild the trust he needs to regain with his family . . . and the community."

The council members responded to the sentence with groans. Liermann protested the sentence immediately on the ground that it was less time than Roberts had offered, but Eubanks stuck to her decision.

"The sentence in this matter is no greater than is necessary," Eubanks said. She cited Wade's remorse, his family situation, and the city's overcrowded prison system as reasons for her decision.

Wade declined to comment, but Roberts said he was relieved to be going home to his two sons, ages 16 and 17, and his wife, who is undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

He plans to pay back the money, she said.

In an interview after the sentencing, Liermann called the sentence "a complete miscarriage of justice."

Lentz said the council, which oversees school-based parent associations, had put measures in place to prevent future presidents from abusing their post.

"The sentence imposed was a travesty," she said. Noting that yesterday was Wade's birthday, she added, Eubanks "gave Greg Wade a wonderful birthday present."