The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

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December 12, 2013

Ex-PTO officer pleads guilty to theft

HERMITAGE — One of the two women charged with stealing money from the Hermitage Parent-Teacher Organization has entered a guilty plea.

Gina M. Grata, 45, of 293 Butterfly Lane, Hermitage, pleaded guilty Monday to a charge of theft. Prosecutors dropped the grading of the offense from a third-degree felony to a first-degree misdemeanor, meaning the maximum penalty she could face fell from 3è to 7 years to 2 to 5 years.

Prosecutors also withdrew a charge of conspiracy to commit theft.

Sentencing was set for Jan. 27 before Mercer County Common Pleas Court Judge Robert G. Yeatts.

The case against Grata’s co-defendant, Kelly M. Vocaire, 41, of 158 N. Buhl Farm Drive, Hermitage, in November was continued to February to allow her time to “come up with” restitution, according to Yeatts’ order.

Hermitage police charged the women in May with stealing more than $35,000 from the PTO – Vocaire $25,299 and Grata $10,181 – between May 2012 and March.

The PTO raises money for and organizes student activities, working closely with elementary and middle school officials to identify needs.

Grata was president of the Executive PTO and Vocaire was treasurer. The Executive PTO oversees the Artman and Ionta-Delahunty PTOs.

An Artman PTO officials told police of discrepancies and asked to see the Executive PTO books, but Grata and Vocaire would not allow her, police said.

Grata and Vocaire were required to sign all checks and police identified 68 checks made payable to Vocaire and 13 to Grata.

Grata admitted to police stealing $7,000 to $8,000, telling police she approached Vocaire in August 2012 about borrowing $1,500 from the PTO to pay a personal expense, but Vocaire would not accept the money when she tried to return it, police said.

Vocaire gave Grata more checks upon Grata’s request to cover “bills and other ‘stuff,’ ” police said.

At the time the charges were filed, Hermitage School District and the PTO announced accounting changes to make the district the custodian of PTO funds.

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