Former council candidate charged with theft

QUINN SCHWARTZ | Herald file

Christopher Ford at a candidates forum in May at Second Missionary Baptist Church in Farrell.

SHARON – The attorney for a former Sharon City Council candidate accused of taking more than $2,000 from a youth football program says the incident was an “unfortunate misunderstanding.”

Christopher Anthony Ford, 28, of 801 Ravine Place, Sharon, is charged with theft and receiving stolen property, both felonies.

Ford unsuccessfully ran in the May primary for one of three Democratic nominations to Sharon City Council. He finished last out of five candidates.

He is accused of taking money that should have gone to purchase uniforms and pay other expenses for the PA Thunder Catz youth football organization.

Ryan Mergl, Ford’s attorney, said his client is being falsely accused.

“Mr. Ford is an upstanding member of the community,” Mergl said. “He ran for city council. I think this is an unfortunate misunderstanding.”

According to the affidavit of probable cause, police said the Thunder Catz owners named Ford as the company’s treasurer and gave him access to information on the team’s bank account.

The organization’s funds came from money raised by youth team members and officials during multiple fundraisers in Sharon and Farrell.

Police said the Thunder Catz owners gave Ford about $670 to buy uniform pants and to pay a certification fee to USA Football. The owners said Ford told them that he loaded the money onto a pre-paid debit card, but there was a problem with the card that prevented Ford from purchasing the pants or paying the fee. Ford said he would straighten out the issue with the card.

On June 3, police said the owners gave Ford an additional $1,510, which closed out the organization’s bank account, to buy uniforms and to pay the certification fee. The owners later contacted the uniform suppliers and found that no one had placed uniform orders for PA Thunder Catz.

The owners of the team said they tried numerous times to contact Ford about returning the money, without success.

Ford said he returned the funds to a mailbox belonging to one of the Thunder Catz owners. The owner said he looked in the mailbox but the money wasn’t there.

Mergl said Ford returned the money and that he would attempt to find surveillance video evidence that would prove that claim.

A preliminary hearing is set for July 18 before District Judge Dennis M. Songer, Sharon.

Follow Melissa Klaric on Twitter and Facebook @HeraldKlaric, email: mklaric@sharonherald.com.