A former employee at a Conneaut Lake area convenience store could spend up to seven years in state prison after stealing nearly $12,000 in cash and lottery tickets from the business during a three-month period.

Justin T. Foister, 22, of 9874 Gehrton Road, will be sentenced on Jan. 7 after pleading guilty Thursday before Crawford County Court of Common Pleas President Judge Anthony Vardaro to a felony count of theft by unlawful taking.

Foister was charged by Conneaut Lake Regional Police Department in June with stealing $11,784 worth of Pennsylvania Lottery tickets and money from the Lakeside Stop-n-Go store in Sadsbury Township. Foister was an employee of the store who took the lottery tickets and money between Feb. 11 and May 8, according to court documents.

Foister faces up to seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine. 

Conneaut Lake Regional Police Department initially charged Foister with felony counts of theft by failure to make required disposition of funds, theft by unlawful taking, theft by deception and theft by receiving stolen property for taking the tickets and money plus a misdemeanor count of retail theft for taking $266 worth of store merchandise between Feb. 11 and May 8.

Foister pleaded guilty to the theft charge. As part of a plea agreement with the county District Attorney's Office, the other charges won't be prosecuted.

In a separate case, Foister also pleaded guilty Thursday before Vardaro to a charge of possession of drug paraphernalia and will be sentenced in that case on Jan. 7.

Meadville Police Department filed the drug paraphernalia charge against Foister after he was found May 24, 2017, in possession of a pipe used to take controlled substances, according to court documents.

According to court documents, Foister was initially accepted into the county court's accelerated rehabilitative disposition program for that case in December 2017. Foister was booted out of the ARD program and the possession of drug paraphernalia charge was reinstated after charges in the lottery theft case were filed, according to court documents.

The ARD program is offered by Pennsylvania’s court system to give first-time criminal offenders the opportunity to be rehabilitated and move through the legal system quicker rather than formally go to trial. Defendants usually receive court-ordered supervision, pay court costs and an administrative fee, but a defendant doesn’t admit wrongdoing.

Under Pennsylvania law, a person's ARD record is expunged from court records if the person successfully completes an ARD program. 

Foister remains free on a total of $25,000 unsecured bond while he awaits sentencing.

Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at kgushard@meadvilletribune.com.

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