By Marcia Moore

The Daily Item

MIDDLEBURG -- Patricia A. Lightner has been charged with stealing more than $6,000 and forging checks totaling nearly $20,000 during her 2 1/2-year stint as treasurer of the Midd-West Field Hockey Association.

The allegations came to light in November when association president Troy Freed received a call from a First National Bank representative to discuss the account.

"I couldn't believe our account went into default," he said, noting that he had just been elected president a few months earlier after serving a one-year term as vice president.

During his involvement with the association, which is not directly affiliated with the Freed said he knew something was amiss Midd-West School District, Freed said neither he nor any of the other members ever asked Lightner, 44, of 80 Poplar St., Middleburg, for copies of bank statements.

Freed said he knew something was amiss when he saw the October and November statements provided by the bank. There was no money in accounts, which should have contained nearly $7,000 in the general fund and an escrow fund belonging to about 40 players.

Treasurer Lightner was responsible for paying bills, although all checks required the signatures of both Lightner and Freed.

Middleburg police were contacted and they determined Lightner had issued and cashed 17 checks to herself totaling $19,723, court records said.

Freed said all of those checks had his forged signature.

Lightner also made several cash withdrawals using the association's credit card, including one transaction from an ATM machine in Lewisburg on Nov. 7 that was recorded on a surveillance camera, court records said.

Freed said the credit card was obtained by the association in May 2010 to pay for equipment from vendors who would not accept checks.

"At no time was it supposed to be used as a debit card," he said.

After the police got involved, Freed said Lightner paid back $6,067 and nearly $3,000 in bills she failed to pay.

"It would have devastated us if we didn't get that money back. We would have been sunk," he said.

She was arraigned on felony charges of forgery, access device fraud, theft by unlawful taking and receiving stolen property by District Judge John Reed in Selinsgrove. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. March 13.

Freed said he was surprised by the thefts and never thought the association would be victimized.

"She is a very nice lady and has a nice family," he said, referring to Lightner.

Since the thefts came to light, the association has implemented new systems, including obtaining a new checking account in all three current officers' names and having all financial statements mailed by the bank to the president.

"If anything good comes out of this, I would hope that more people get involved in associations like ours," Freed said. "The more support organizations can get from parents, the more likely they are to succeed."

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