HARRISBURG - For eight years he was No. 2 in the kitchen at the Governor's Mansion, preparing veal scaloppine, pecan-crusted salmon, and other fine foods for Gov. Ed Rendell, his wife, Marjorie, and visiting dignitaries like Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Now, sous chef Michael Yancey is charged with pilfering the mansion's cutlery drawers and trying to pawn silver place settings worth tens of thousands of dollars.
State police said Yancey, 28, stole at least 100 pieces of sterling silver and tried to sell most of it at a pawn shop in Lebanon, after first attempting to scrape off markings declaring the items property of the "Executive Mansion."
Troopers, tipped by the pawn shop owner, raided Yancey's home in Jonestown Monday night, where they reported finding six framed photos and a souvenir football inscribed to Rendell by Buffalo Bills star quarterback Jim Kelly. Police said the photos and football had been taken from the Governor's Mansion.
"The cutlery alone is worth $15,000, and there are other pieces with no set value that may be of historical value or gifts, we're not sure," said Staff Sgt. Paul Gaspich, station commander of the state police Lebanon County barracks.
Yancey was arraigned Tuesday in district court in Lebanon County and was released from the Lebanon County Prison on $15,000 bail, according to prison officials. As a condition of his bail, Yancey is forbidden from entering the grounds of the Governor's Mansion in Harrisburg or the lieutenant governor's residence in Fort Indiantown Gap. He is also barred from any contact with Rendell or Gov. Corbett.
Yancey, who worked as a sous chef at the mansion since 2002, is charged with lifting the silver over two months beginning in November. A Lebanon pawn shop owner tipped off police after Yancey came in for the ninth time trying to sell silver.
Police said that Yancey tried to scratch out the words Executive Mansion etched on the front and back of the silverware, but experts were able to identify it by using a forensic camera technique that exposed the writing.
Gaspich said he believes Yancey "got greedy" and took advantage of the transition at the mansion as Rendell packed up to leave and newly elected Corbett moved in.
"It was a perfect opportunity with an outgoing governor and an incoming governor who has no idea what belongs there," said Gaspich.
Rendell, for whom Yancey cooked during his full eight years in Harrisburg, said in a statement Tuesday that he was "very saddened" to learn of the news of Yancey's arrest.
"Michael served as an exceptional chef during my time in the Governor's Residence," Rendell said. "I offer my support during this clearly difficult and challenging time for him and his family."
Yancey will be suspended from his $39,600 job without pay pending the outcome of his trial, said Dan Egan, spokesman for the Office of Administration, which handles state personnel matters.