The former secretary-treasurer of Lower Towamensing Township was sentenced to a Carbon County prison term yesterday after previously admitting she stole over $81,000 of township funds.
Dorothy Widmer Achey, 61, formerly of Kunkletown and now residing in Joliet, Ill., was sentenced by Senior Judge Richard W. Webb to serve six to 23 months in the county prison and is responsible for repaying the township $81,067.30.
At an emotional proceeding in which several of her siblings asked the court to be lenient with their sister, Webb said he felt that Achey was not a bad person but got caught up in an Internet scam, referred to in court as a Nigerian scam, in which she thought she had "hit it big" and dumped thousands of dollars of the township, and her own money, into the scam. Webb said he felt if it had not been for her getting "sucked in" by the scam she would not be before him. He added she had to be accountable for her actions and said a clear message had to be sent out to the public, that if a person in a government position violates the trust of the public, the price they must pay is jail time.
Webb noted from a presentence investigation (PSI) prepared by the adult probation office that Achey had spent more than $95,000 of her own money in the scam.
Members of Achey's family told Webb that her actions were completely out of character and that she had never been involved in such actions before. They told the court that she was under extreme pressure at her job with the township due to conflicts among two of her superiors and that she was the sole caretaker for her husband, John, who was disabled and confined to a wheelchair. She moved to Illinois to be closer to family members who are helping her get through the entire ordeal, Webb was told.
Achey told Webb, "I'm sorry for what I did and all the trouble I caused. She apologized to the taxpayers of the township and her family. She said, "I was so physically and mentally stressed and looked at the scam as a way out and to help myself and my husband."
Webb said he hoped that the public becomes more aware of Internet scams that promise big financial rewards, but at a price. Webb said a simple rule should be followed by anyone who receives such an Internet response: "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is," Webb said.
Assistant District Attorney Joseph Matika told the court that one of the family members of Achey was correct that sometimes good people do bad things, but added, "In our society when this happens punishment is the response." He said Achey was probably not a bad person but she violated the trust of the public and for that a price had to be paid.
Webb said although Achey was remorseful for her actions he added, "Whatever your motives, you can't take from the public."
Webb ruled that jail term will be followed by four years of probation. Achey also was ordered to get a mental health evaluation and supply a DNA sample and pay the $250 fee.
She began the jail term immediately.