Ex-clerk gets 27 months in prison
Former Schuylkill County Clerk of Courts Stephen Lukach Jr. must serve 27 months in prison and pay more than $15,000 in restitution to his old office, a federal court judge ruled on Monday.
“The theft of money, and the bold effort to cover it up show what can only be described as an abuse of public office and the public trust voters put in you,” Judge Robert D. Marini said.
Lukach, 70, of Lake Hauto, received his sentence after pleading guilty last August to one count of mail fraud and one count of falsifying records related to an investigation into theft from his office.
Lukach will report to serve his sentence on Nov. 17 at 2 p.m., barring any delays in designating him to a prison.
A grand jury indicted Lukach in 2018 on 20 charges stemming from an investigation into theft from his office.
Lukach admitted a single count of mail fraud for creating a fake bank statement in an effort to hide bank transfers which showed evidence that he funds from the clerk’s office.
He also admitted to a single count of falsifying documents, for altering a computer database that the clerk’s office kept to try to cover up misappropriation of funds.
He was ordered to pay $15,927.24 in restitution to the clerk’s office for funds which he allegedly took.
A Democrat, Lukach served as clerk of courts for 27 years. He retired in 2014 shortly after FBI agents searched his office.
The FBI started its investigation after the county controller’s office collected evidence that Lukach was misusing funds.
Before Lukach’s sentencing, family and friends testified about his character, and the impact that the sentence would have on their family.
A neighbor in Lake Hauto spoke about how Lukach helped her father recover from the sudden loss of his wife, with whom he had spent the majority of his life. She said Lukach was also tireless in helping their community recover after a severe storm toppled thousands of trees and dozens of light poles, including one on her parents’ driveway.
Another longtime friend from Schuylkill County testified that Lukach didn’t hesitate to help her find a job as a corrections officer when she suddenly found herself as an unemployed single mother.
His son, Stephen Lukach III, a defense attorney, expressed the range of emotions he’s felt since his father was charged. He said that he believes his father is remorseful and asked the judge for leniency because of his mother’s health.
Lukach was emotional as his daughter-in-law spoke about the role that he plays as a grandfather to her children, and how he is the center of their world.
Judge Robert D. Mariani said there was no doubt that Lukach has helped many people, but he could not turn a blind eye to his actions in the case.
Marini noted that investigators found Lukach took money from bail funds, restitution and fees which were intended for technology upgrades in the clerk’s office.
Stolen funds from the automation account were used to pay for car payments, cellphone bills, a relative’s credit card, and meals.
The investigation also reportedly found that Lukach had taken $4,619.20 in restitution funds and used them to cover for money that was missing from the bail account.
He related one case where Lukach had written a $2,500 check from a bail account to a couple to pay them back after he failed to deposit a check for their taxes.
Mariani said that Lukach’s crimes were not a one-time lack of judgment which could be easily forgiven.
“This took place over an extensive period of time, and the cover-up was equally extensive. I can’t turn a blind eye to this kind of misdeeds from a public official,” Mariani said.
After his guilty plea last year, Schuylkill County suspended Lukach’s $2,000-plus monthly pension.
Mariani said he would be willing to consider delaying Lukach’s report date if the US Bureau of Prisons has not designated him to a prison.
He said he would recommend on Lukach’s behalf that he be assigned to a minimum security federal prison camp in Schuylkill County.