Date: 2002-02-21

BELLEFONTE -- The co-founder of a Benner Township adoption agency will stand trial for allegedly stealing nearly $22,150 from the business' ac counts while managing its finances.

By Angela Pomponio

After a preliminary hearing Wednesday in Centre County Court, charges of theft by deception and receiving stolen property were upheld against Elaine Ruth Peachey, 35, of Spring Mills who opened Heart to Heart Adoption Service Inc. with Jennifer Holdren in 1998. Authorities allege that soon af ter their doors opened for business, Peachey began writing checks and using a service credit card for bogus purchases.

However, Peachey, who has since resigned, claims she not only bought office supplies and baby clothes for clients, but invested up to $8,000 of her own money to get the adoption agency off the ground.

The checks she wrote be tween 1998 and 2001 were to reimburse herself, defense at torney Karen Muir argued be fore District Justice Daniel Hoffman.

"I think what you heard here was a loose business arrangement between these two wo men," Muir said. "At some point, the relationship between these two women fell apart and that's when my client came before you facing criminal charges. (Peachey) was doing what she thought was appropriate."

Earlier, Holdren testified that she let Peachey handle all of the business' finances, and rarely looked into the record-keeping. But the one time Holdren did, it soon resulted in a call to police.

"I started looking through receipts and started seeing a lot of things that were not supposed to be there ..." Holdren said, also noting inconsistencies between a check register and computer records. "I was stunned."

Assistant District Attorney Karen Kuebler argued that even if Peachey reimbursed herself for her share of the start-up funds, the numbers don't add up.

"It's clearly more than recouping her investment," Kuebler argued.


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