Trips to the Bahamas and Disney World, visits to strip clubs, and private school educations for his children were among the extravagances that a former Whitpain Township supervisor financed with $1.75 million he embezzled from his corporate clients and a Montgomery County Little League club.
He must now pay back all the money and spend the next 11½ to 23 months in the county jail, a Montgomery County judge ordered Wednesday.
William McKernan III, 45, of Blue Bell, pleaded guilty in September to seven counts of theft by deception, more than two years after he first confessed to his victims.
He immediately resigned as Whitpain's treasurer at the time of his arrest. Although authorities do not suspect he took any taxpayer money, he embezzled from corporations and community organizations to fuel his "country club lifestyle," prosecutors said.
His attorney, Bruce L. Castor Jr., described him as enamored of "being a big shot in the community."
"He was throwing parties and participating in country club activities," Castor said, "and became dependent on alcohol."
Between March 2005 and February 2009, McKernan transferred thousands of dollars at a time from the bank accounts of K.W. Reese Inc., a right-of-way clearing company in Mercersburg, Pa., and longtime client of his family's accounting firm. He was also taking money from the Lower Gwynedd Little League, for which McKernan volunteered as treasurer.
Little League organizers discovered that theft after an audit prompted by McKernan's arrest revealed $57,000 in missing money.
Thousands of dollars went to pay credit-card debt and McKernan's state and federal taxes, prosecutors said. But as the theft continued, his purchases became more outlandish.
McKernan used some of the Reese money to buy a wedding gift for a member of the company's staff. He also treated company executives to fancy dinners unwittingly paid for with their own money.
At one point, Assistant District Attorney Kate McGill said, McKernan blew money earmarked for Little League uniforms at a strip club.
Castor emphasized Wednesday that his client had come forward and admitted his crimes well before police became involved two years ago.
Reese referred the matter to investigators only after months of restitution negotiations between McKernan and the company stalled, Castor said.
Since 2009, McKernan has repaid all the money he took from the Lower Gwynedd Little League and about $900,000 to Reese.
First elected to the Whitpain Board of Supervisors in 2003, McKernan served at various times as chairman and treasurer. Although he bowed out of a reelection bid in 2009, citing personal reasons, his resignation came weeks before a replacement would have been voted into his office.
McKernan continues to work at his family's firm, Castor said, but has voluntarily given up his accounting license and no longer has contact with client accounts.
Because of that job, Judge William R. Carpenter opted Wednesday to sentence him to a county jail term instead of prison so that he might be eligible for a work-release program that would allow him to repay his debts.
Carpenter also ordered five years' probation for McKernan upon his release.