Lisa Moore sentenced on 5 counts10/05/2021 03:50PM ● By Richard Gaw
By Richard L.
At 1:25 p.m. on Oct. 4, former Kennett Township Manager Lisa Moore entered the crowded Courtoom #1 of the Chester County Justice Center, dressed casually in a black blouse, black leggings and a cream-colored sweater, and her blonde hair was tied in a ponytail.
For the next 73 minutes, she sat nearly motionless beside her attorney Julia Alexa Rogers, and addressed the Hon. David F. Bortner of the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County with a bare minimum of words.
At 2:43 p.m., following a 73-minute hearing that sealed her immediate fate, Moore, 48, crossed her hands behind her back and accepted the gentle click of handcuffs by a county sheriff to her wrists. She was then led out of the courtroom and into custody, to begin her sentence as a prisoner of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
As part of a guilty plea deal arranged by Moore, Rogers and prosecuting attorneys William Judge, Jr. and Michelle Frei of the Chester County District Attorney’s Office, Moore was sentenced by Bortner and taken into custody on five counts stemming from her embezzlement of more than $3.2 million from Kennett Township beginning in 2013 and ending in 2019.
Standing at a podium before Bortner, Moore was sentenced to incarceration in a state correctional facility for a minimum of three years and a maximum of 10 years for the crime of Theft by Deception, a felony in the first degree.
Moore was also charged with the following crimes, which carry with them probation periods that will be added – consecutively -- to her sentencing after her prison sentence is complete:
* Dealing in Unlawful Proceeds, a felony in the first degree, which will carry a two-year probation sentence after her prison sentence is complete;
* Forgery, a felony in the second degree, for which Moore will serve a one-year probation;
* Tampering with Public Records, a felony in the third degree, that carries a one-year probation; and
* Access Device Fraud, a felony in the third degree, for which Moore will serve a one-year probation.
As part of her punishment, Moore is also required to pay restitution costs back to the township in the amount of $3,249,453 – the sum she stole during that nearly eight-year period.
In addition, Moore must also pay various fees related to the legal and forensic aspects of her prosecution; will not be allowed to hold a position of fiduciary responsibility for with any government or non-profit organization; will be required to inform any future employer about her conviction; and will be required to comply with the laws established by the state’s parole board.
Prosecuting attorney shares details of crimes
In his opening statements – during which he presented the terms of the agreed-upon sentencing -- Judge replayed the details of Moore’s crimes, all of which have become a well-documented trail of thievery and deception.
A once-prominent figure in local politics and the Kennett community, Moore created her own personal parlor game of trickery with township funds that were intended to be used for employee benefits, the township's police department, land preservation and several other township operations.
From 2013 to 2019, she used the stolen money to pay for extravagant personal expenses. She traveled to Italy and France and Las Vegas, rang up substantial bills at clothing boutiques and gave money to family and friends.
Moore also had money paid directly to herself, but never recorded the disbursements in the township's records. On other occasions, she would have the money paid to herself, but would record the payments as being made to known and normal vendors who did business with the township.
The amount of Moore’s thefts increased year by year, accumulated through unauthorized payroll payments; payments to her personal credit card; unauthorized payments to her retirement fund; personal use of the township's credit card; and other unauthorized disbursements.
Moore also continued to raise her salary as the township’s manager, increasing her annual pay from $130,000 to well over $200,000 by claiming that she worked over 3,000 hours per year. In 2017, for instance, she booked herself for working 3,612 hours—or an average of 10 hours a day for 365 consecutive days – which led to rewarding herself a salary of $295,000 for these fabricated work hours.
At one time, the township required two signatures for certain checks – one by Moore and the other by a township supervisor – but Moore side-stepped a second signature by using a stamp with the signature of one of the supervisors. When she needed checks paid to herself or her credit card accounts, she would write the check, sign it herself and then use the stamp signature of the supervisor.
Moore used a township credit card issued in her name to rack up unauthorized purchases that totaled nearly $700,000. She also engaged in acts of money laundering – transferring money from one township account to another – giving the appearance of normal transactions. She would then make another transfer, secretly moving the money from a second township account to one of her own accounts.
Moore even concocted a scheme that bilked the taxpayers an additional $50,000 a year, by pretending to be married to Brian Gore which, under township policy, extends full medical benefits to the spouse of a township employee.
She also manipulated the township's retirement savings plan to steal money from the township. Between 2014 and 2019, Moore was entitled to $33,000 in payments for retirement savings, but directed over $945,000 to her E*Trade account. In 2018, she was entitled to a payment of $5,000 from the township to this savings account, but Moore awarded herself over $353,000 in payments, a manipulation of funds that cost township taxpayers over $347,000 in lost funds during 2018.
The intricate system that Moore had created began to unravel in April 2019, when the township police department received a report from the Capital One Fraud Department related to money transfers Moore had made. After an initial review, the investigation was turned over to the Chester County District Attorney’s Office, who was assisted by Marcum, LLP, a forensic accounting firm hired by the township, in discovering the extent of Moore's complex fraud schemes.
After an exhaustive eight-month investigation, Moore was arrested on Dec. 10, 2019.
‘Once betrayed, trust returns slowly’
During the hearing, Kennett Township Supervisor Whitney Hoffman delivered a victim impact statement to Bortner that in many ways reflected the emotions, frustrations and setbacks of the many victim impact statements that were sent by township residents to Bortner during the last week.
In her statement, Hoffman provide an overview of how Moore’s thievery turned a once “outstanding public servant” into an individual who could no longer be trusted, and who had single-handedly spiraled the township into “a crisis of trust and uncertainty” that tarnished the reputations of its staff and elected officials.
“Our constituents demanded to know what happened and who was responsible,” Hoffman said. “Our employees, and [Hoffman and fellow supervisors Richard Leff and Scudder Stevens] were suddenly suspected criminals in the eyes of many – including our friends and neighbors. Township stakeholders wondered openly if we could fulfill our fiscal obligations, including payroll. Lisa Moore’s crimes could easily have paralyzed and ruined Kennett Township.
“Despite what we have done since the discovery of her crimes – and the work of scores of people – we are still recovering.”
Hoffman continued to detail the lingering impact that Moore’s long road of embezzlement and deceptions had on the township, saying that in the wake of Moore’s crimes, “we, as public officials, have all felt betrayed, angry and devastated,” and that the process of regaining the public’s trust in its local government “will take decades, if it ever happens,” she said. “Once betrayed, trust returns slowly.”
‘This is her judgment day’
After Hoffman’s statement, Judge told Bortner that he had not scheduled any additional comments from township residents.
“We took the position that in order to fully encompass [the residents’ comments], that their elected body would speak on their behalf,” he said. “I didn’t think it was feasible to open up the podium to 8,000 people, and no one has specifically approached us about speaking today.”
Bortner then invited anyone in the courtroom to provide additional comment. One woman stepped forward, but because she was not a Kennett Township resident, she was dismissed from the podium.
In his closing statement, Judge again requested that Bortner impose the recommended sentence of the guilty plea negotiation, which he said was “just and appropriate.”
“The Commonwealth is suggesting to the court that this negotiated guilty plea considers the sophisticated, multi-faceted criminal scheme that occurred over the course of several years,” Judge said. “Lisa Moore was a trusted employee of the taxpayers, and she betrayed that trust. The defendant used her position as a public servant to perpetrate a fraud at great cost to the citizen’s faith in their government.”
In her closing remarks, Rogers reiterated Judge’s statement, calling the agreement a “fair and just sentence.”
Rogers said that during her conversations her client, Moore said that she understood that her crimes will “forever overshadow” the accomplishments she has made in the Kennett community.
“She knows that this is her judgment day,” Rogers said.
In the matter of financial restitution to the township, Rogers said that a certified cashier’s check in the amount of $1.2 million was given to the township earlier that day.
Moore waived her right to make a statement before Bortner.
After agreeing to the negotiated terms of the sentence, Bortner addressed the courtroom.
“I hope this proceeding is some small measure of movement in the proper direction for Kennett Township in getting on with its future,” he said.
‘A time of great sadness’
At 2:40 p.m., following Bortner’s closing statement, Rogers placed her right hand on Moore’s shoulder and whispered in her left ear. Three minutes later, Moore was placed in the custody of a county sheriff, handcuffed and led from the courtroom.
“It is a time of deep sadness that we are at this place, but we are, through a team effort of township employees, elected officials, the District Attorney’s Office and professionals, able to move forward from this terrible, terrible situation,” Stevens said after the hearing. “It is incredibly sad to see this person that we all loved and respected, see shackles fastened to her and led out of the courtroom. This is not a time of celebration. This is a time of great sadness.”
Stevens said that the township will continue to use its resources to “bring the township back to the place where we need to be.”
“We also have to be open to the community and those who disagree with what’s happened or have a perspective that differs from those of us who have been living through this,” he said. “We respect that, and we are anxious to hear from them and to continue to communicate.
“Our goal is to be transparent and open and embracing for the whole of the community so that we can all come together at a time of deep sadness, and work through this.”
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].