Ex-St. Clair Township tax collector surrenders to police on accusation of forging check

Sign up for one of our email newsletters.Updated 6 hours ago A former tax collector in a small Westmoreland County township surrendered Wednesday on police allegations that she stole payments from a resident. Tracy Lee Howard, 51, is accused of forging a...

Ex-St. Clair Township tax collector surrenders to police on accusation of forging check

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Updated 6 hours ago

A former tax collector in a small Westmoreland County township surrendered Wednesday on police allegations that she stole payments from a resident.

Tracy Lee Howard, 51, is accused of forging a check to take an additional $1,000 from the St. Clair Township taxpayer in 2015 and later overcharging her by $939 for another tax bill, county detectives allege in a criminal complaint.

Howard told investigators she made a “math error” in both instances.

She waived her right to a preliminary hearing Wednesday and is free on $10,000 unsecured bond.

“She's been very cooperative with law enforcement regarding this issue, and we're hopeful to get something resolved,” said her attorney, Michael DeMatt.

Township Supervisor Tom Custer said Howard resigned from the post in January and declined further comment. Howard was elected in 2009 — with 402 votes — when she ran unopposed, according to county election results.

Supervisors appointed Desiree Muir as the new tax collector. She will finish Howard's unexpired term, which ends this year.

St. Clair Township in rural northeastern Westmoreland County is home to about 1,500 people, according to 2010 Census figures.

County Detective Tom Horan wrote in a criminal complaint that in April he was notified by officials in the county controller and tax offices about Betmatik two discrepancies in money collected by Howard after receiving a phone call from the victim's daughter.

The victim wrote a $714 check in 2015 for county and township property taxes, but Horan alleges that Howard forged the check to get an extra $1,000. The money was not deposited in the tax collector's checking account, according to the complaint.

The victim paid her $1,695 school property taxes by check in three installments in 2015. But police said the victim actually paid $2,634 and Howard cashed the checks but didn't put the money into the tax collector's account.

“According to (the victim), she simply went to the home/business of Tracy Howard and asked what she owed on her (school) taxes and Tracy gave her those amounts,” according to the complaint.

After the discrepancies were reported to police, Howard mailed a letter containing money orders for $939 as a refund, Horan wrote.

In an interview, Howard called both discrepancies math errors and said she sent a money order as reimbursement because the funds were not initially deposited into the tax collector's bank account, according to the complaint.

Howard is charged with forgery, theft by deception and receiving stolen property. She is scheduled for a formal arraignment in April.

Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-837-5374 or rsignorini@tribweb.com.

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