A Conshohocken woman has been charged with stealing $193,243 from two municipal authorities she administered, but the solicitor for one said its losses could be as high as $500,000.
Linda Ann Marie Palermo, 41, of West 11th Avenue, was arraigned Thursday on charges of theft by deception, theft by unlawful taking, and related offenses.
Authorities said she spent the money on her mortgage, personal bills, a cruise, two vacations to Mexico, and the purchase of a 1994 Corvette.
Palermo was released by District Justice William Maruszczak on $50,000 unsecured bail for a hearing Aug. 18 in Montgomery County Court. She waived a preliminary hearing.
Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman says in court papers that Palermo worked part-time as administrator for municipal authorities in Lower Gwynedd Township and West Conshohocken Borough. Palermo collected sewer payments for the township authority from October 2004 until this spring and for the borough authority from August 2001 through April.
When Lower Gwynedd officials fired Palermo in March for poor job performance, court papers allege, they began looking into three checks paid to unknown vendors. The trail led to $27,855.77 that Palermo either paid herself or routed to bank accounts she controlled, according to the records.
Joseph J. McGrory Jr., solicitor for the West Conshohocken authority, said that once he had heard from officials in Lower Gwynedd that money was missing, he began checking the authority's books and found $165,387.49 in checks that Palermo had routed to herself from the authority's coffers.
"She's a likable person, but the losses are extensive," McGrory said. "I suspect it will be over $500,000 by the time it's over. We will get some of it back, but we're going to spend some attorney's fees to do that."
McGrory said Palermo had gotten a pay raise in January from $21,000 to $25,000 for her work in West Conshohocken.
Lower Gwynedd issued a statement saying only that Palermo had been fired after she failed to cooperate with the authority's annual audit. In the ensuing probe, the money was found missing. The statement did not address how much Palermo was paid by the authority. Her attorney, Richard J. Tompkins, said he did not know.
Palermo appeared in court in King of Prussia wearing a striped-knit shirt, jeans, and flip-flops. She answered the judge's questions in a barely audible voice and cried when she turned to face reporters.
McGrory said the borough authority had beefed up its oversight procedures and now requires two signatures on each check.