Leuschel pleads guilty to charges related to theft of over $200,000

RIDGWAY - Laurene L. Leuschel, 51, of St. Marys, pleaded guilty to the charges of theft by unlawful taking or disposition, a grade-three felony; and tampering with records or identification, a grade-one misdemeanor, when she appeared before 59th Judicial District Judge Richard Masson in the main courtroom of the Elk County Courthouse during the morning session of Return Day on Friday. Sentencing in the matter was deferred until after the completion and receipt of a pre-sentence investigation report, which will include a forensic mental health evaluation conducted by Dr. David Webster. According to information detailed by District Attorney Brad Kraus on Friday morning, Leuschel was previously employed by the Office of Human Services Incorporated (OHS) in Ridgway and is allegedly responsible for stealing over $200,000 from various accounts handled by the organization. Kraus indicated that Leuschel was employed in the organization's financial office at the time and reportedly had used accounts there for her own benefit during a period between 2004 and 2009. The thefts were discovered after an internal audit was conducted. In June 2009, search warrants were reportedly obtained for personal accounts belonging to David R. and Laurene Leuschel. According to the affidavit, it was ultimately determined that "the results of the review, combined with the findings of the aforementioned audits, revealed that Laurene Leuschel disbursed $269,858.32 from various accounts belonging to OHS to the personal accounts of David R. and Laurene L. Leuschel, to creditors which OHS held no financial obligation toward and in the form of checks she cashed."