By Roger DuPuis
WILKES-BARRE — A former Exeter fire company official has been sentenced to spend two to 12 months in the Luzerne County Correctional Facility in connection with her theft from a relative.
Stephanie McNeil, 33, must report to the facility at 9 a.m. Thursday, according to a sentence handed down Tuesday by county Judge Joseph Sklarosky Jr.
McNeil was arrested in October, after police say she stole her wheelchair-bound mother-in-law’s credit card and racked up more than $500 in charges.
She previously pleaded guilty to two felony counts of access device fraud, one misdemeanor count of possessing an access device without authorization, and one misdemeanor count of theft.
McNeil was given credit for 10 days of time served, and is eligible for immediate parole upon serving her minimum sentence. That means she could be out of jail before the end of September.
Sklarosky also sentenced her to spend one year on post-release probation.
She remains at the center of a separate probe of Exeter Hose Company No. 1. finances. That case remains under investigation.
According to the affidavit of probable cause in the case:
Stephanie McNeil visited her mother-in-law, Sandra McNeil, at the Anthracite Apartments in Pittston on Oct. 14.
After the visit, Sandra McNeil reported that her wallet and a piggy bank were missing. The wallet contained $80 in cash, a debit card and other personal items.
Police determined a total of $552 in unauthorized charges were made on Sandra McNeil’s debit card that month.
In an Oct. 28 interview, Stephanie McNeil initially told police that she was concerned the nurses were stealing from her mother-in-law. When questioned further, she allegedly confessed to using the card, but said that her mother-in-law gave it to her to buy groceries and Christmas gifts for her children.
She allegedly told police she only used the card once. When investigators told her of the additional reported charges, a tearful McNeil said she used the card two more times.
McNeil denied stealing the wallet and piggy bank, however.
When police questioned McNeil again on Oct. 29, she initially admitted she was present when the card was stolen, but “then tried to back track the question and tried to make excuses on how she obtained the card,” police said.
In addition to her confinement, McNeil must make $551 in restitution to her mother-in-law.
She also is to continue with mental health treatment, may have no contact with her mother-in-law.
The judge also sentenced her to undergo a drug and alcohol evaluation, and she will be subject to random testing.
Fire company case
McNeil formerly served as treasurer of Exeter Hose Company No. 1. Other relatives, including her husband and his uncles, have held positions of authority in the community.
As previously reported, husband Thomas McNeil Jr. is nephew of Exeter fire chief Richard McNeil and his brother, police chief John McNeil.
Stephanie McNeil has been identified as being at the center of an investigation into alleged financial irregularities at the fire company, which voted her out of office in November.
Her name appears in search warrants issued over alleged misappropriation of fire department funds.
Other members of the family associated with the fire company were not seen as suspects, Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis has said.
Salavantis on Tuesday confirmed the case is still under investigation.
Roger DuPuis may be reached at 570-991-6113 or on Twitter @rogerdupuis2.