A Downingtown woman has been charged with allegedly embezzling a quarter-million dollars in utility bills from a Chester County township and spending it on online shopping sprees, prosecutors say.
Receptionist Donna Groff, 70, reportedly claimed a "shopping addiction" drove her to steal a $264,577.87 in taxpayer funds from the municipal body and spend it online on designer clothes, makeup, shoes, jewelry, home decorations and other items, Chester County DA Tom Hogan announced Wednesday.
"Valley Township was victimized by this trusted employee, acting merely to amuse herself, and now the taxpayers will foot the bill," DA Tom Hogan said in a statement. "Valley Township needs to do a comprehensive audit of the township's finances to determine if there are any other problems or systemic weaknesses."
Groff was "trusted and well-liked" in her job as a secretary and receptionist for Valley Township, Penn. One responsibility included collecting "cash payments by citizens for their water, sewer and trash bills," according to Hogan. After a fellow employee noticed a discrepancy in the utility payments, they contacted law enforcement, who allegedly found evidence that Groff had been stealing citizens utility payments for years.
"She simply put the cash into her purse and walked out with it at the end of the day," the DA's office said in a press release. "She fabricated fraudulent bank deposit slips and altered bookkeeping records to cover up the crime."
Stolen funds initially went toward medical and dental bills, Hogan said, but most went toward hundreds of transactions with QVC and other shopping outlets.
Groff allegedly confessed to the theft and fraud after being confronted by a detective at her office on Dec. 19, 2017, and was immediately fired.
She is now charged with theft, tampering with records, unlawful use of a computer and related crimes.
Valley Township did not immediately respond to requests for comment.