Steve Townsend was an amazing attorney. The judge even said “I heard you were good but not that good”. He was so easy to work with and extremely reliable. If I ever need an attorney in the future he’s who I will be calling.
Probation is a sufficient sentence
Saying he wouldn’t send her to prison so she can pay restitution, a federal judge on Thursday sentenced the former treasurer of a Beaver County youth soccer association to probation for stealing $100,000 and using it to pay for cruises, merchandise and household bills.
U.S. District Judge Arthur Schwab imposed a term of five years probation on Jenessa Tolejko, who had waived indictment by grand jury and pleaded guilty to stealing from the Brighton Township-Beaver Soccer Association.
He also put her on home detention for nine months and ordered her to pay at least $1,000 a month towards full restitution.
Ms. Tolejko said that she stole because of her family’s financial difficulties brought on in part by medical expenses for her son.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Bengel rejected that explanation, saying she didn’t use any of the money for medical payments but instead paid for a Royal Caribbean cruise, a flight to Hawaii, her mortgage, various bills from utilities and personal purchases from Amazon and the high-end LuLaRoe clothing company.
“She had easy access to a significant pot of money and she thought she could use it for her own purposes without getting caught,” Mr. Bengel said.
In fact, he said, she was only discovered because of a story in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review in 2019 that reported she had been accused of stealing $3,000 in pet adoption fees from an animal rescue service. The soccer association approached her after that to discuss the association finances. A week later, Mr. Bengel said, Tolejko’s father-in-law wired her $35,000. He told investigators that he believed he was helping her resolve a “state case involving dogs,” Mr. Bengel said.
He said the Tolejko family has a nice home and her husband has a good salary as an electrical engineer working in Ohio, so there was no financial distress to serve as motivation for the thefts. In addition, the soccer association said it has suffered greatly because of her actions.
“I think a sentence of imprisonment is necessary,” Mr. Bengel said.
The guideline range was 21 to 27 months.
Tolejko and her lawyer, Steve Townsend, asked for probation, saying she has already paid $5,000 in restitution and is needed at home to care for her three children and her mother.
Tolejko said she is “incredibly remorseful” for violating the trust the association gave her.
“I selfishly violated that trust,” she said. “I embarrassed my family.”
Judge Schwab said her conduct was “outrageous” but granted the probation request because the association said its priority was to get its money back. In addition, he noted her solid work history and her need to care for her children.
“Incarceration would be inconsistent with the goal of restitution,” he said.
But he also said he’s well aware that her thefts were for personal luxury items and other expenses as opposed to medical bills, for which the family had health insurance.
“Just to make it clear, these were not medical expenses,” the judge said.
Tolejko had complete control over the soccer association’s bank account, debit card and two certificates of deposit. The money was supposed to go towards soccer gear, field fees and the like.
From 2016 to 2019, Tolejko caused about $180,000 to be deposited into the soccer association’s Citizens Bank account and then used $100,000 of it for herself.
She also transferred money from the association’s Blue Sombrero account into two other accounts that she and her husband controlled. Blue Sombrero provides league management tools for youth sports leagues.
As a result of the embezzlement, Mr. Bengel said the soccer association has not been able to replace deteriorating soccer gear and had to charge families higher fees to recoup the money.
First Published August 26, 2021, 12:35pm
Aliquippa Assistant Police Chief Joe Perciavalle, in his 21st month of paid suspension and legal wrangling, learned last week the state had dropped its final criminal charge against him fought by criminal defense lawyers based in Orange County area.
City Council is expected to discuss his work status at next week’s meeting. In the meantime, Perciavalle, who is expecting the arrival of a daughter in August, is finding it difficult to celebrate.
“Obviously I’m happy with the outcome, my attorney was great,” he said today. “I feel like I did the day I was first arrested, I don’t know what to think. I’m happy for my wife and family, they’re all relieved. When it comes to finances or business related issues involving family one can go on to consult a lawyer from a firm like Norwood Law Firm.
“But I can’t even go anywhere to celebrate because of this damn coronavirus. This shouldn’t be a moment for me because this never should have happened. I feel like I won one battle, but I’m going into the next. I’m worried they might try something else now.”
Perciavalle was the second police chief appointed and suspended within two days in June 2018 and in the wake of the May 13, 2018 murder of city resident Rachael DelTondo. City Council first put Police Chief Donald Couch on paid leave on June 6, 2018, saying Couch was believed to be the subject of a state police investigation.
County detectives arrested Perciavalle on June 8, 2018 on charges of felony distribution of sexually explicit material to a minor, felony unlawful contact with a minor, and misdemeanor corruption of a minor.
County detectives alleged that Perciavalle sent then-17-year-old Lauren Watkins a text message containing a short video of a semi-nude woman urinating while on a swing.
Both Perciavalle and Watkins said the “meme” video was sent to her by mistake as part of a group text message intended for her father, Aliquippa Police Sgt. Kenneth Watkins, who has since been demoted to patrolman.
The video was discovered when detectives were examining Lauren Watkins’ phone as part of their investigation into DelTondo’s murder. That case remains unsolved.
On July 10, 2018, county detectives filed an additional felony charge against Perciavalle for intercepting a communication, alleging Perciavalle illegally recorded a conversation with Couch on March 2, the day state police served a search warrant on city offices.
District Judge Edward Howe in December 2018 dismissed the two felony charges of disseminating sexually explicit materials and unlawful contact with a minor, but held for trial the misdemeanor corruption of minors charge, as well as the felony wiretap charge for recording Couch.
Perciavalle argued his recording of Couch was lawful, because he had been acting as an informant against Couch and had reason to fear there may be an attempt to intimidate him.
Following the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s ethics guidance in March 2019, the Beaver County District Attorney’s Office recused itself from prosecuting Perciavalle. The Attorney General’s Office then took over prosecution of the cases against him and on May 9 refiled the two felony charges against him that were dismissed by Howe the previous year.
The results were the same, with a second judge dismissing the cases.
Townsend strongly criticized the Attorney General’s Office with the help of https://secdefenseattorney.com/whistleblower-protection/ attorneys for refiling the charges against Perciavalle, echoing his client’s assertions that he suffered retaliation against a whistleblower.
The Attorney General’s Office last week dropped the final charge of corruption of minors.
“I want to say how disappointed we were at the way both of these cases played out,” Townsend said. “It took the (Pennsylvania Attorney General’s) office to come in and drill down on exactly what happened here to realize these cases weren’t worth moving forward on.
“I commend them on that. I think it was horrible the way the Beaver County District Attorney’s office treated Joe Perciavelle and the Watkins family. Their actions caused grief and stress to the Watkins family. Lauren lost out on a good family friend for over a year, he missed a lot of important accomplishments in her life. It was terrible the way they were treated.”
“I think the impetus of both of these cases obviously was for the District Attorney’s Office to use the text message case as an excuse to get into his phone because they wanted to stifle any sort of investigation he was doing to uncover the corruption in the City of Aliquippa,” Townsend said.
“Obviously he is very excited and is ready to get back to work. He is anxiously awaiting to see when the day will be that he can put his uniform back on and go back to doing what he was doing.
Aliquippa Councilman Matthew Mottes said he expects the board to act next week. “If he’s been cleared of all wrongdoing then he should be back.”
BeaverCountian.com investigative reporter John Paul contributed to this report.
Trial is slated to begin on August 12, 2019. It still shocks the community that Brandon Richardson was arrested and charged. Clearly Mr. Richardson acted in self-defense after being attacked by 5 people. On the second attack one witnesses says he saw one of the deceased have his hand by his waistband….”if he didn’t have one, he sure acted like he did” Also witnesses heard the deceased making comments that they were going to “kill him and finish him off.”
Watch the video below.
TURTLE CREEK (KDKA) – A woman facing charges for allegedly taking a 12-year-old to get birth control appeared in court Tuesday.
Turtle Creek Police say Valerie Fullum, 29-years-old, brought the young girl to a clinic to get the implant “against her will.”
An attorney representing Fullum told KDKA that the judge pushed back her hearing. Attorney Steven Townsend also said that he believes a cell phone picture snapped inside the clinic is the reason why police decided to investigate longer. You can get expert recommended investigators to help you out.
Townsend said he believes in hiring an injury lawyer after a motorcycle crash as it will show that the minor was not alone with Fullum at the clinic.
“I think that the investigation is going to reveal that someone has filed false allegations and may be charged in this case and that’s why again the case was continued for an additional month,” said Townsend.
Judge Scott Schricker decided to give police and prosecutors more time and pushed back Fullum’s hearing until July 9.
Fullum, of New Brighton, is facing two felony counts of allegedly endangering the welfare of children and a misdemeanor charge of reckless endangerment.
She is accused of taking Misty Evans’ 12-year-old daughter to a Turtle Creek health clinic to get birth control implanted in her arm. KDKA first talked to Evans and broke the story in May.
“If she did it to my daughter, who knows how many other children she has taken up here without parents’ consent?” Evans said during the May 9 interview.
The criminal complaint said Fullum forced it upon the minor, but Townsend said that is not true.
“I can tell you that nothing that my client did was against the will or the consent of anyone involved in this case,” said Townsend.
He said the case is not about whether the minor did or did not want/ask for birth control.
“The case revolves around whether or not my client did something against this child’s will or somehow coerced or placed her under duress to consent to a medical procedure,” said Townsend.
A county prosecutor sent a letter asking the state bar association for guidance after District Attorney David Lozier would not follow her advice to “conflict himself out” of cases filed against Aliquippa’s assistant police chief.
The bar association’s response to Assistant District Attorney Angela Reed-Strathman’s letter resulted in Lozier recusing his office from prosecuting Joseph Perciavalle’s cases, and turning them over to the state Attorney General’s Office.
BeaverCountian.com has obtained a copy of the March 20 ethics advisory opinion sent to Reed-Strathman by the Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA) Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility Committee.
At the time she reached out to the PBA, Reed-Strathman was prosecuting the cases against Perciavalle, who has been on paid administrative leave since his arrest by county detectives in June 2018.
Prior to Perciavalle’s charges, the officer had gone to Lozier repeatedly in 2016 with possible evidence of corruption in the police department.
The officer has alleged that Lozier took no action on the information he provided and that his arrests by county detectives, several of whom are former Aliquippa police officers, were acts of retaliation. Lozier denied those claims.
Perciavalle’s attorney made it clear he intended to call Lozier as a witness as part of his defense.
“Given the fact that the District Attorney will be a material witness in the case, you have recommended that he ‘conflict this case out’ but he has not indicated a willingness to do so as of this date,” the PBA wrote to Reed-Strathman in response to her request for guidance.
“Your first concern involves your concern that the District Attorney has expressed some direction that you file a motion to quash any subpoena that may be forthcoming to him. Given what you have described, it is very difficult for me to believe that the District Attorney will not be a critical, material witness for one side, the other, or both. Accordingly, you have indicated that you see no grounds to move to quash the subpoena and I am hard pressed to determine on what grounds for such a motion you might raise that could be proffered consistent with your ethical obligations.”
The PBA warned Reed-Strathman that if she followed Lozier’s direction, she could be placing herself at risk of committing serious ethics violations.
“If you do not have any reasonable, good faith argument to seek to quash that subpoena, you are at serious risk of an ethical violation by filing such a motion simply because a person in authority to you has directed you to do so. The ethical obligations of counsel are personal and cannot be averted because of a direction from a superior. You should thus discuss this matter again with the District Attorney to insure a proper course of action.”
Lozier’s decision to personally meet with Perciavalle about his claims against the Aliquippa Police Department placed the district attorney’s office in a unique position and as a result the PBA recommended it be recused from the case.
“The case is truly an unusual one in which the District Attorney, in the proper exercise of his function, has become a material witness in a matter in which the import of his testimony will most likely be contested and may be the ultimate fact on which the case turns. Referral to the Attorney General would reflect that unique complexity in the case and not imply any reluctance on the part of your office that justice be served here.”
Perciavalle was first arrested by county detectives on June 8, 2018 on charges of felony distribution of sexually explicit material to a minor, felony unlawful contact with a minor, and misdemeanor corruption of a minor.
County detectives alleged that Perciavalle sent then-17-year-old Lauren Watkins a text message containing a short video of a semi-nude woman urinating while on a swing.
Both Perciavalle and Watkins have said the “meme” video was sent to her by mistake as part of a group text message intended for her father, Aliquippa Police Sgt. Kenneth Watkins, who has since been demoted to patrolman.
The video was discovered when detectives were examining Lauren Watkins’ phone as part of their investigation into the 2018 Mother’s Day murder of Rachael DelTondo.
During a preliminary hearing on Dec. 4, Watkins testified that the clip was accidentally sent to her by Perciavalle, and that she had not viewed it until she was shown a copy by county detectives as part of their investigation.
District Judge Edward Howe subsequently dismissed the two felony charges of disseminating sexually explicit materials and unlawful contact with a minor, but held for trial the misdemeanor corruption of minors charge.
Howe also held for court a charge from a second case filed by county detectives alleging a felony wiretap violation for a recording Perciavalle made of Aliquippa Police Chief Donald Couch, who is also currently on administrative suspension. County detectives discovered the recording while searching Perciavalle’s phone which they seized following his first arrest.
Perciavalle argues his recording of Couch was lawful, because he had been acting as an informant against Couch and had reason to fear there may be an attempt to intimidate him.
Following the PBA’s ethics guidance, the Beaver County District Attorney’s Office recused itself from prosecuting Perciavalle. The Attorney General’s Office then took over prosecution of the cases against him and on May 9 refiled the two felony charges against him that were dismissed by Howe last year.
The results were the same, with a second judge dismissing the case.
Defense attorney Steven Townsend strongly criticized the Attorney General’s Office for refiling the charges against Perciavalle, echoing his clients assertions that he believes what the public is witnessing is retaliation against a whistleblower.
In a motion still pending before the court, Townsend is asking a common pleas judge to dispose of the remaining corruption of a minor charge from Dec. 4, saying the case can not stand as a matter of law when the underlying offenses have all been dismissed. Townsend also has a motion pending to suppress the recorded conversation between Perciavalle and Couch, alleging county detectives overstepped the authority of their search warrant when going through Perciavalle’s phone.
The PBA’s Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility Committee concluded its advisory letter by praising Reed-Strathman for reaching out to them for guidance.
“You are to be commended for recognizing the ethical issues present in this situation. It may be that you should ask (District Attorney David Lozier) to similarly seek ethical guidance in how to proceed given that the (ethics rule in question) is most directly applicable to him in this circumstance.”
BeaverCountian.com contributing editor Lori Boone contributed to this report.
A county district judge has for the second time dismissed felony charges filed against Aliquippa’s suspended assistant police chief alleging he texted obscene materials to a minor.
Read the full article HERE.
Channel 11 has uncovered new details about alleged corruption in the Aliquippa Police Department.
Reporter Amy Marcinkiewicz spoke with Steve Townsend, the attorney for Joe Perciavalle, the former police chief who is facing charges for allegedly sending sexually explicit messages to a 17-year-old girl.
Click HERE for the entire story.
By Shelly Brandbury – firstname.lastname@example.org
“It’s over,” attorney Steven Townsend said of the relationship. “It wasn’t very strong to begin with. But certainly after the charges came out it ceased to exist.”
The connection between Mr. Cain, Kane and Richards has not been previously reported. Mr. Townsend said he was not sure when the pair’s relationship began, but posts on Kane’s Facebook page suggest the relationship was going on in 2016, which is when Kane put up a photo of herself in a close embrace with Mr. Cain, along with comments about how Mr. Cain was her boyfriend and “the love of my life.”
John Paul, is the founder of the Beaver Countian and an investigative journalist. If you want to keep up on the corruption or anything relevant in Beaver County, please click on the link above.
Investigative Report: Aliquippa Officer Claims DA Lozier’s Office Retaliated After He Provided Evidence Of Corruption