NE Pennsylvania President, Treasurer Sentenced; Plead Guilty

Gerald Conaway knows he’s done wrong.  But the former union official will have to do some time just the same.  Conaway, formerly president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 93 in Bucks County, Pa., received a three-to-23-month prison sentence on January 28 for theft of $5,500 in union officer benefit funds to pay off personal debts.  The Southampton, Pa. resident admitted before Bucks County Judge Jeffrey Finley that he’d “tarnished the badge” he was sworn to uphold.  On one level, he’s lucky:  His fellow defendant, former FOP Treasurer Katherine Leese, pleaded no contest in the same courtroom to embezzling far more. 

Conaway, 66, was an officer with the Upper Southampton, Pa. police force; Leese, 42, was a cop in Falls Township, Pa.  The two were charged last summer following an internal audit indicating substantial shortfalls in the union death benefit fund.  Combing through bank statements for the years 2006 and 2007, Financial Secretary Richard Frederick discovered a series of unauthorized transfers from the union account to an account in Leese’s name.  Two additional transfers had gone to Conaway’s personal account.  Leese told investigators she had Conaway’s permission to take out an FOP loan.  She said she used the money – about $87,000 – to pay off credit cards and make improvements to her fire-damaged home.  Conaway, who denied approving the transfers, has paid back the money he took with interest.  Leese, by contrast, has paid back only a little.  The union has sued to recover the rest.  (Philadelphia Inquirer, 1/29/09).