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Detectives looking into whether former South Greensburg official stole money to repay stolen money

Renatta Signorini
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Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
South Greensburg’s former secretary Dennis Lee Kunkle Jr., 52, surrenders himself for arraignment, to Judge L. Anthony Bompiani’s office in Hempfield, on Friday, Dec. 16, 2016. Kunkle surrendered for arraignment on charges he stole about $166,000 from borough coffers.

Westmoreland County detectives are investigating the source of $100,000 that South Greensburg Borough received last month in restitution from a former secretary who pleaded guilty to stealing that much and more from municipal accounts.

Detectives requested records of bank activity since the beginning of the year for Dennis Lee Kunkle Jr., 54, his wife and his 77-year-old father after information surfaced that about $58,000 was missing from Dennis Lee Kunkle Sr.’s bank account, according to information contained in a search warrant.

Kunkle Jr. of Hempfield declined to comment. He is on house arrest in the now-closed theft case related to money taken over five years from South Greensburg’s coffers. His attorney in that case did not return messages.

No criminal charges are pending against him.

Kunkle was arrested in December 2016 and pleaded guilty last month to six counts, including theft and tampering with public records. Over a five-year period, Kunkle systematically diverted more than $155,000 of South Greensburg funds for his private use, investigators said. He oversaw finances in the borough of about 2,100 residents for nearly three decades.

Approval of Kunkle’s plea bargain hinged on his ability to pay $101,000 in restitution. He was sentenced Oct. 10 to five years on intensive probation and a year of house arrest after submitting payment from a joint checking account he shares with his father.

Kunkle also was ordered to repay $45,000 to two insurance companies that reimbursed the borough for part of what was taken and more than $30,000 to the borough to cover the remainder of the stolen money and legal fees.

Judge Rita Hathaway delayed the plea hearing for several weeks over concerns about the source of the restitution payment. Kunkle testified that he cashed in his retirement and didn’t use money belonging to his father.

A few transactions from Kunkle Sr.’s bank account are among what detectives are investigating, the search warrant affidavit indicates. The younger Kunkle has power of attorney for his father, who authorities said lives in the basement of Kunkle’s Hempfield home.

Two days after the sentencing hearing, investigators from the Westmoreland County Area Agency on Aging told Detective Ray Dupilka that Kunkle Sr. permitted them to review his financial records. They found that an account belonging to Kunkle Sr. contained $58,211.89 on Sept. 13. On Oct. 12, the balance was $51.95, according to the search warrant affidavit.

“Thus, in one month, Kunkle Sr.’s account was depleted nearly in its entirety,” Dupilka wrote. “This occurred in conjunction with Lee Kunkle’s October 10, 2018, restitution payment.”

Three checks totaling $60,320 were deposited Sept. 24, 26 and 27 into bank accounts for Kunkle Jr. and his wife. A fourth check for $2,332 was cashed Oct. 5, Dupilka said. Overdraft fees were charged to Kunkle Sr.

Authorities are awaiting bank records to review.

Kunkle Jr. was a leader for many years with the Westmoreland County Republican Committee, taking part in several campaigns. He previously served on South Greensburg council and as a Greensburg Salem school director.

Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta at 724-837-5374, [email protected] or via Twitter @byrenatta.

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