Tafner pleads money trouble
WILLIAMSPORT - Thea Tafner has filed for chapter 13 bankruptcy, and the notion that the Mount Carmel woman, charged with embezzlement from a local ambulance service and serving a federal prison term, doesn't want to pay restitution makes Kevin Jones sick.
"There's a point where everyone should have to owe up to what they did. I am exhausted, and I want to vomit," Jones, mayor of Mount Carmel, said in reaction to the news. "No one in the world can accept responsibility for what they did (anymore). It's bull."
Filing for bankruptcy, however, will likely not clear Tafner of the $1 million-plus she owes in restitution alone. It does not "discharge an individual debtor for any payment of an order of restitution," said Heidi Havens, media and community outreach consultant in the U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Pennsylvania.
Tafner, former ambulance committee chairwoman of Mount Carmel's American Hose and Chemical Fire Company, was sentenced May 16, 2011, to 30 months in federal prison for opening a fraudulent bank account where she allegedly directed $3,712,203 in Medicare payments between Oct. 23, 2000, and Nov. 2, 2009. She was charged with using $1,816,045.13 for personal gain.
She filed on Sept. 21 for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, typically done by an individual with a consistent source of income. It allows the individual to develop a plan to pay down debt over time.
$1.3M in liabilities
Tafner reported she has $285,398.01 in estimated assets and $1,341,352.60 in estimated liabilities.
The value of her two properties, without deducting any secured claims or exemptions, at 100-106 W. Saylor St., Atlas, and 498 Elysburg Road, Danville, is $265,300. She also owes $14,121.63 in real estate taxes for her properties.
Tafner has $20,098.01 in personal property, which includes $466.01 in her checking account at First Columbia Bank and Trust Co. and a 2008 GMC 1500 worth $15,075.
There is a total of $1,182,158 owed to creditors holding unsecured non-priority claims, including $17,235 on a deficiency on a 2009 Nissan Rogue from Bama Leasing, Montoursville; $17,208 from Bank of America, Newark, Del.; $31,871 from Bank of America, El Paso, Texas; and $1,016,145.13 to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Her monthly income of $3,809.04 comes from her retirement fund from her career at Line Mountain School District, which she worked as an elementary teacher and, at the time of her resignation, elementary principal. Her total monthly expenditures are $3,542, which include $250 in restitution related to her embezzlement and $650 for prison expenses for her incarceration at Federal Prison Camp in Alderson, W.Va
The base payment plan is $58,363.44, with $267.04 a month being paid until April 2013, and then $1,892.04 a month until September 2015.
In addition, the court say she must dedicate to the plan proceeds in the estimated amount of $100,000 from the sale of her Elysburg Road property.
Tafner is represented by Daniel J. Rheam, of Rheam Law, P.C., Lewisburg. Laurence C. Kress, of Duncannon, her attorney during her criminal case, withdraw as court appointed counsel on June 26.
At Tafner's sentencing in May 2011, the court ordered a lump-sum payment of $124,869 within 60 days, and allowed the remainder of $1.8 million in restitution to be paid at no less than $250 per month after Tafner's federal prison term is served. At that rate, it would take hundreds of years to pay back the full amount.
While Tafner appealed the $124,869 lump sum, a federal appeals court in May ordered her to pay it. It is unclear whether the money has reached American Hose, but a representative at the state Clerk of Courts office said Tafner has started paying the $250 monthly payment.
American Hose President James Reed could not be reached for more information on that topic.