Sale of Tafner's property negates government lien
HARRISBURG - A lien placed on Thea Tafner's Rush Township property by the Department of Justice in 2011 no longer applies now that a bank has assumed ownership with plans to sell it.
Heidi Havens, media and community outreach consultant in the U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Pennsylvania, confirmed that the lien by First National Bank of Pennsylvania is superior to the federal government's lien.
"The mortgage would have to be paid off before we could collect any money out of proceeds from the sale of the house. Since the bank now owns the house, our lien no longer applies," Havens said via email.
Tafner, former ambulance committee chairwoman for American Hose Chemical and Fire Company, Mount Carmel, was sentenced in May 2011 to 30 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to embezzlement for opening a fraudulent bank account where investigators said she directed $3,712,203 in Medicare payments.
As part of her sentencing, she was ordered to pay more than $1.8 million in restitution to American Hose, although terms established by the court require a minimum of just $250 a month.
According to Havens, Tafner has paid $91,818.24 as of Tuesday, which includes an $80,000 lump sum and additional monthly payments, and still owes $1,724,226.89. At the minimum $250, it would take approximately 575 more years to satisfy restitution.
Tafner, a longtime teacher and elementary principal at Line Mountain at the time of her arrest, had signed an agreement not to appeal her sentencing conditions because the government agreed not to force her to use money from her pension to pay restitution. A later ruling that she'd have to make a lump sump payment of $124,869 to American Hose essentially forced her to use the pension money, Tafner argued in an appeal to the court in 2011. The court ruled on May 29, 2012, that it was legal to require the payment.
Even so, American Hose only received the $80,000 lump sum, or 64 percent of the $124,869, because Tafner had already spent part of it, the U.S. Attorney's Office reported in May.
The court restitution order is still in effect, and the government says it will continue to seek funds and/or property from Tafner. But it has now lost the lien on the Rush Township property, Havens said.
The 2.35-acre property, at 498 Elysburg Road, along Route 54 between Elysburg and Danville, was sold through a sheriff's sale last month for $10,603.77, the amount owed in back taxes and associated costs. Tafner was not paying the mortgage on the Rush Township property and the bank filed with the court to determine a judgment of $133,551.44.
County records show the house has a fair market value of $110,000. The six-room, one-story house was built in 1931, and Tafner purchased the property in 2000 for $170,000. The address was the location of Creations by Carter, a nursery and gift shop owned by Tafner's brother, Carter Tafner, who died last year.
Thea Tafner also owns 100-102 W. Saylor St., Atlas, and a 6,350-square-foot empty lot on the same street. Both of these properties are on the list for the county's next upset sale in September. At an upset sale, properties are sold with payment of all liens, back taxes and mortgage required.
The federal government does not have a lien on those properties.
Tafner was in Federal Prison Camp in Alderson, W.Va., from June 20, 2011, until May 28, at which time she was transferred to a halfway house until July 11. Since then, she's been in home confinement under the supervision of CCM New Orleans Community Corrections Office. She's scheduled to be released Aug. 23, about four months shy of the 30-month sentence. Authorities say an inmate must serve 85 percent of a sentence, after which they can be released early for good behavior.