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Former Pa. tax collector sentenced on theft charges

December 18, 2003|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The former tax collector for Mercersburg, Pa., was sentenced Wednesday in Franklin County Court to 111/2 to 23 months in prison and another 20 years on probation for stealing approximately $200,000 through a business she operated.

Sharon Lee Selser, 46, of 245 N. Main St., pleaded guilty on Sept. 22 to three counts of bad checks and two counts of theft by failure to make required disposition of funds.

Pennsylvania State Police and Mercersburg Police initially charged her with more than 300 counts of theft, bad checks and tax code violations, all but a few of which were dismissed as part of a plea agreement, according to court records.

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Judge John R. Walker noted Selser had no prior criminal record but said, "by golly, when you got into it you caused a lot of people a lot of hurt."

Walker asked Selser what she did with the money.

"Your honor, I can't explain it. I don't know," Selser replied.

"You're just telling me this money just vanished into thin air?" he asked.

Selser responded again that she did not know what she did with the money.

"I want to know whether you went down to the Caribbean and got a suntan or went down to Charles Town (W.Va.) and pumped it into the slots," he said.

State police charged Selser, who was the borough's tax collector from 1997 to 2001, with 109 counts each of theft by unlawful taking and theft by failure to make required disposition of funds received, according to criminal complaints filed in 2002.

Police said Selser, then owner of Selser's Business Services in Mercersburg, was paid more than $220,000 from the 109 victims, but failed to send the money she collected for vehicle registrations, title work and taxes to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and other agencies.

Selser also was charged with 107 counts of violating the tax reform codes for allegedly failing to send taxes paid to her to the transportation department, according to court records. She was charged with sending bad checks totaling $60,655.20 to the department and paperwork amounting to more than $39,000 that was not accompanied by the required funds.

Mercersburg police had charged her with three counts of theft by failure to make required disposition of funds received for allegedly taking $2,896 from a customer while failing to obtain various permits on his behalf, according to court records.

Walker said there was still some question about the total amount of restitution owed by Selser, but said the amount would be adjusted if she were found to owe more or less.

On Wednesday, he ordered her to pay back $107,476.54 owed to the department of transportation and another $40,000 to companies and individuals.

"I think there's been quite an effort to get this accurate," Assistant District Attorney Tim Wilmot said later of the restitution figure.

As for the discrepancy between the amount of money listed as stolen and the amount of restitution, he said that may have resulted from "double counting" of money taken from individuals or companies that also was owed to the state.

Walker told Selser he read letters from some of the victims "and they didn't have very nice things to say."

"The substance of the comments were, 'Sock it to her, baby,'" Walker said.

Selser's attorney asked Walker if the beginning of her jail sentence could be delayed until after Christmas.

"No, she's going to jail today," Walker said. Referring to the location of the county prison, he said, "They'll have turkey dinner out on Franklin Farm Lane."

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