The tax collector for Ryan Township has been arrested and charged with stealing more than $171,000 from the Mahanoy Area School District.

State police have charged William Wildoner, 71, of 689 Barnesville Drive, Barnesville, with theft by unlawful taking or disposition, receiving stolen property and theft by failure to make required disposition of funds. All the counts are felonies.

According to Schuylkill County Assistant District Attorney Thomas J. Campion Jr., Wildoner began taking tax proceeds that he collected for the school district and using the funds for his own benefit some time in 2009. As a result there was a shortfall of $161,000 in 2009 that was never reported to the county tax claim bureau.

Wildoner then used 2010 tax proceeds to make up for the $161,000 shortfall for 2009, Campion said. When there was another shortfall in 2010, school officials became suspicious and reported the matter to state police.

Trooper Bernard Walasavage, of the Schuylkill Haven barracks who is prosecuting the case, said the investigation is continuing and that charges may be amended once the exact amount that is missing is determined. Walasavage also said that additional charges may be filed if it is determined that any county or township funds are also missing.

Wildoner has been tax collector in the township for 35 years.

Walasavage said letters were sent to taxpayers asking for information needed in the investigation. Several taxpayers responded and confirmed they paid their taxes for 2010 and 2011 by check and the checks were cashed by Wildoner.

The trooper said Wildoner was interviewed on June 3 and has been cooperating with him in the investigation. Walasavage said Wildoner admitted taking the money and that he used it for personal expenses including medical bills, prescription bills and gambling.

Wildoner was arraigned Wednesday before Senior District Judge Elizabeth Romig, Frackville, and released on $25,000 unsecured bail. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Wednesday, June 29.