"I did it. I'll take whatever you give me," Erin M. Steiger tearfully said Tuesday morning in Crawford County Court of Common Pleas before being sent to jail for stealing money from the Conneaut Lake Joint Municipal Authority.
Steiger, 42, of 337 Franklin St., Linesville, was the former office manager of the authority, which operates a sewage treatment plant that serves parts of Sadsbury and Summit townships. Steiger, who had worked there for eight years and left in November 2019, admitted to stealing more than $6,000 from the authority in 2019.
Steiger offered a brief tearful apology in court to the authority and her family for her actions.
"I'm not making any excuses," Steiger told Judge Mark Stevens prior to being sentenced on one count of theft by unlawful and two counts of forgery. "I don't want to let anyone down anymore."
Stevens said jail time was warranted for Steiger as she was authorized by the authority as a cosigner on its checks which required two signatures for issue. Steiger admitted to signing her name and then forging authorized authority member names as the second signature on nine checks from May to October 2019.
Stevens called Steiger's actions a betrayal of trust placed in her by the authority, its customers and her family as well as herself in handling the day-to-day finances of the authority.
"It's an incredible inappropriate series of acts you've done," Stevens said. "It undermines the system of local government at its core.
"You were an authorized signer," Stevens said. "They relied on you the most because that was your job."
Stevens sentenced Steiger to serve four to eight months in the Crawford County Correctional Facility followed by five years of probation for the theft by unlawful taking count. On the two forgery counts, the judge sentenced her to five years of restrictive probation on one forgery count with its first five months to be house arrest/electronic monitor and five years of probation on the second forgery count. Stevens ordered the probationary sentences on the forgery counts be served at the same time, but to begin following Steiger's release from jail.
Steiger was ordered to pay $250 in restitution to the Conneaut Lake Joint Municipal Authority and $6,413.97 in restitution to Conneaut Lake Joint Municipal Authority/McKee CUMIS Insurance; court costs; and perform 100 hours of community service. Stevens also ordered Steiger eligible for work release.
Steiger was charged by Conneaut Lake Regional Police Department in October 2020 with a total of 25 counts — 18 counts of forgery, three counts of theft by deception, and one count each of theft by unlawful taking, receiving stolen property, tampering with records, and misapplication of entrusted property. She pleaded guilty to two counts of forgery and one count of theft by unlawful taking in April of this year in exchange for the other counts not being prosecuted by the Crawford County District Attorney’s Office.
Police launched their investigation after Conneaut Lake Joint Municipal Authority members contacted them in late September after an audit found irregularities in the authority's accounting ledgers.
Keith Gushard can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.