MERCER – The Mercer County district attorney’s office and HomeTown Community Rentals are looking for people who may have been defrauded by a former HTCR employee.
Allen Leroy McFeaters, 48, of Sharon, has pleaded guilty to theft for taking rent money from tenants and keeping it for himself.
McFeaters’ sentencing is scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday in Mercer County Court of Common Pleas. The hearing is open to the public. He faces 42 to 84 months in prison.
HTCR President J. Jarrett Whalen said the theft came to light during an internal audit when it was discovered that a significant amount of renters’ payments were missing.
“Allen was subsequently caught trying to replace the missing money and confessed, orally and in writing, that he had been stealing money, mostly renters’ payments, for some time,” Whalen said. “Allen was immediately fired, and the matter was turned over to the police for prosecution.”
An external accounting audit revealed that more than $130,000 was missing over the 10-month period immediately prior to McFeaters’ firing. Whalen said no further accounting could be conducted because documents had been destroyed, apparently by McFeaters when he realized he was under investigation.
Whalen said he estimates the thefts’ costs could run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“Allen knew our company’s mission was to clean up neighborhoods in and around Sharon, and to help the poor and disadvantaged in the valley, and yet he stole money from the very people we are trying to help. He took advantage of people in need, people with families, the elderly and people with disabilities,” Whalen said.
“He stole from our renters, some of whom are our friends, our families and our neighbors. He set our effort back years and ultimately hurt the community. It is sickening to know that he stole from poor people, made renters pay twice or evicted renters for nonpayment when they had actually paid and he had just pocketed their money.”
Whalen said McFeaters claims no recollection of what funds he stole or from whom, although there is evidence that he stole rent payments up until the day before he was caught and fired.
Whalen said he wants to ensure justice is done, so HTCR and the district attorney’s office are trying to identify additional victims.
“One thing about Hometown Community Rentals is that if they hadn’t bought up and rehabbed and rented these houses, we would have a huge blight problem,” Mercer County District Attorney Peter C. Acker said of Whalen. “The work he does with Hometown Community Rentals is very important to especially Sharon, somewhat Farrell, somewhat Greenville, but with his law practice he can only do so much. So this is not an uncommon scenario.”
Acker said his office sees thefts of this type in a lot of doctor’s offices and businesses.
“You need to prosecute them,” Acker said. “You need to mark them as having committed an embezzlement or theft so if future employers check, they can determine these people have a problem.”
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