Date: 2002-01-14

Centre Daily Times (State College, PA)

BENNER TOWNSHIP -- The co-founder of a local adoption agency was arrested on theft related charges after allegedly taking more than $22,000 from the business.

Elaine Ruth Peachey, 35, of Spring Mills was arraigned Thursday before District Justice Daniel Hoffman on charges of forgery, theft by deception, theft by unlawful taking of property and receiving stolen property -- incidents that allegedly occurred during her employment with Heart to Heart Adoption Service Inc. between 1998 and 2001.

Peachey was released after posting bail.

By L. Deshan Crittenden

Peachey first earned media attention in 1998 after she and Jennifer Holdren opened Heart to Heart, a nonprofit adoption agency located on Benner Pike.

Heart to Heart specializes in domestic and international adoptions and works to find homes for African-American children.

In a 1998 interview, Peachey said she was she decided to open the agency after she and her husband, Gary, adopted a baby girl from Guatemala.

"All through the adoption process, I thought this would be a rewarding way to help other couples in the same situation as we were," Peachey said in 1998. "Since we've been through (the process), we can make it easier and more understandable" for others.

The agency came at a financial cost, however.

In July 1998, Peachey and Holdren said they depleted their savings to open the business.

A few months later, Peachey allegedly began stealing from the agency, according to state police at Rockview.

Peachey allegedly stole money from Heart to Heart by submitting false expense vouchers and improperly using a service credit card.

Peachey may also have forged checks, police said.

Heart to Heart is licensed by the state Department of Public Welfare.

By the time Peachey left the agency in April, she had allegedly stolen an estimated $22,147.50, according to police.

Police did not state why Peachey left the agency.

Holdren was unavailable for comment Sunday.

This is Peachey's second arrest since leaving the agency. In July, she waived her right to a preliminary hearing on a driving under the influence charge.

Peachey's preliminary hearing on the theft charges is scheduled for Wednesday at 9 a.m.

L. Deshan Crittenden can be reached at 231-4638.


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