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Schuylkill Clerk of Courts under investigation

  • Stephen M. Lukach Jr.
    Stephen M. Lukach Jr.
Published March 25. 2014 01:16PM

Longtime Schuylkill County Clerk of Courts Stephen M. Lukach Jr. is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the state auditor and state police after several "irregularities" including making car payments from a county account were discovered in his accounting and records management.

Lukach, a Rush Township Democrat, has held the position for 27 years. His office processes criminal court documents.

Numerous efforts to reach Lukach for comment were unsuccessful.

County solicitor Al Marshall said he would defer comment until the matter is "further investigated and we have a better understanding of the content of the report."

Commissioners Chairman Frank J. Staudenmeier said, "We are not at liberty to discuss this because it is currently under investigation by the state police."

The irregularities surfaced during an audit of the Clerk of Courts' 2012 records, Controller Christy D. Joy said. The last internal audit of the Clerk of Courts office, for 2004, was completed by former Controller Gary Hornberger on June 30, 2006.

"Based upon the work of our internal audit, it is unclear if the Clerk of Courts office has made timely and accurately deposited, recorded, reported and remitted collections to the County of Schuylkill," Joy wrote in a March 3 report to commissioners and District Attorney Christine Holman.

Among the findings were that from April through September of 2013, Lukach "made payments of $185 for his car payment out of the automation fund," Joy said.

The fund holds money from judicial proceedings that is used to support court-related information technology.

Controller's office staff asked for the automation fund bank statements on Nov. 25, 2013, and again on March 12. On March 17, he said, Lukach deposited money for the car payment back into the automation fund.

Joy wrote in his March 3 report that Lukach was not cooperative with the audit.

"We started the audit in July of 2013. We met significant resistance. On Sept. 11, 2013, I was approached by the state police. They were having similar challenges," Joy said.

"I knew we had a problem when the bank accounts they were aware of and the ones we were aware of had similar overlappings, but each list had accounts not present on the others," he added.

According to Joy's report, on Sept. 6, Lukach made out a check to cash for $400.

When asked why by the controller's office, he said he "needed cash to buy eight hard drives off the back of a truck."

More than a year later, the hard drives were sitting behind Lukach's desk, wrapped in plastic.

There were no receipts for them, according to the report.

Lukach explained another check made out to cash was for a television set for jurors, also "off the back of a truck."

The problems also included failure to enter bail money information into the county's automated system, deposit checks on time, forfeit bail money to the county, turn over interest to the county's general fund, remit fees on a timely basis, keep records for the automation fund, monitor bank accounts, maintain a safe-deposit box, keep accurate and updated expense records and to secure monies.

"Daily deposits to the bail account are put in envelopes and placed in a locked filing cabinet, the key to which is hung next to the filing cabinet," Joy's report said.

Lukach also failed to segregate duties among staff, increasing the opportunity for fraud, Joy's report said.

Lukach also failed to submit reports and documents to the controller's office in a timely manner.

The clerk's office also failed to initially report to the auditor the number of bank accounts.

Initially, Lukach told the controller's staff there were three bank accounts.

Confronted with information, he finally conceded there were six.

However, the controller's office learned there were, in fact, 16 accounts.

"We find the piecemeal haphazard discovery of bank accounts and withholding of information unusual," Joy wrote in his report.

"We recommend that the auditee disclose all the bank accounts that contain accountable monies."

Joy's report said that "as of Dec. 31, 2012, there were more than 1,000 outstanding checks in the Costs and Fines account, ranging from June 6, 2011, to Dec. 19, 2012."

Some of the payees that could not be found were the county prison, adult probation, housing authority, sheriff, district attorney and Clerk of Courts.

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