CLARION - A Strattanville woman accused of the theft of more than $70,000 from a local fire department could spend up to 17 years in a state prison.
Nichole Lynn Rawson, 22, entered a guilty plea Sept. 8 to one charge of forgery, a second-degree felony; and one charge of theft by unlawful taking, a third-degree felony.
Clarion County Judge of Common Pleas Sara Seidle-Patton said the maximum sentence for the forgery charge was a maximum of 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $25,000. The judge said the maximum charge on the theft by unlawful taking was up to seven years in prison and a fine of $15,000.
Rawson will also have to pay full restitution to the Strattanville Volunteer Fire Department.
The complaint states that overall, Rawson took approximately $70,000 in funds from the Strattanville Volunteer Fire Department and an additional $900 in cash from the secured safety box at the fire hall.
The $70,000 was taken by "kiting" checks, a form of check fraud.
Rawson had initially been charged with seven counts of forgery, one charge of theft by deception, seven counts of identity theft and one count of the use of an access device by an unauthorized person. All of the charges were felonies.
The charges are the result an investigation into unusual activity in the Strattanville Volunteer Fire Department's financial accounts.
According to a criminal complaint, the investigation was initiated after an officer of the Strattanville Volunteer Fire Department advised state police he had noticed that several checks had only one signature, the signature was of the department's treasurer, Nichole Rawson.
All checks written from the department's accounts are required to have two signatures on them. The fire department officer also noticed his own name was signed on several checks that he did not endorse or authorize.
Rawson had been the department's treasurer since 2015.
Sentencing will be on Oct. 6 in Courtroom No. 1 in the Clarion County Courthouse.