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Penn. Couple Steals $70K from Ambulance Companies

The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa.

Jan. 26—SCRANTON—A Lake Ariel husband and wife accused of stealing tens of thousands of dollars from Jefferson Twp.'s ambulance company turned themselves in Thursday for arraignment on nearly 200 felonies each.

Gerald Dennis, 73, and Dorothy Dennis, 69, walked into Lackawanna County Court shortly before noon and were arraigned by Magisterial District Judge Terrence V. Gallagher on 189-count criminal complaints charging each with theft and forgery.

They are accused of taking $63,817.83 from the Jefferson Twp. Ambulance Association and $4,668.59 from the Jefferson Twp. Ambulance Relief Association, and for signing the names of other people on several checks from both organizations, according to criminal complaints filed Wednesday and made public Thursday.

Gerald Dennis wore a Jefferson Twp. EMS sweatshirt to court. Dorothy Dennis told news photographers to get her good side.

A July report from state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale found more than $30,000 in "unauthorized and undocumented expenses" at the ambulance company and asked for the county district attorney's office to review the findings.

County Detective Lisa M. Bauer began investigating by interviewing the relief association's listed treasurer, Michelle Olenchak Dennis, who told the detective she resigned from that position in 2013. Told by DePasquale's office that her name is signed on relief association checks for the last four years, she told Bauer she believed Dorothy Dennis, who used to hand her checks to sign when she was treasurer, had been using her name without permission.

Bauer telephoned Dorothy Dennis and asked for receipts for the suspicious checks and, after some back and forth, a Scranton attorney, John Petorak, called Bauer and said he was in the process of getting the receipts from Dennis. Petorak said Wednesday he is not representing them.

Bauer requested that Gerald and Dorothy Dennis provide the receipts several times over a four-month period, but she said they failed to do so.

Bauer received bank records through court orders during the investigation and discovered that a total of $68,486.59 in checks from the ambulance association and ambulance relief association had been made payable to Gerald and Dorothy Dennis from January 2013 through November 2017. The memo lines on the checks cover an assortment of reasons for payment, like trips to Philadelphia, candy for parades, supplies and other expenses for vendors.

Many of the checks bear the signature of Val Larioni, a longtime ambulance association president, as a co-signer with either Gerald or Dorothy Dennis. Larioni told Bauer he has not been active with the association in seven years and "absolutely has not" signed an association check in that time frame, according to the complaint.

Bauer also interviewed Daniel Corallo, who was elected president of the association in January 2017, when Gerald Dennis was captain and Dorothy Dennis was treasurer. Corallo said it would be rare for association officers to pay cash from their pockets because, whenever anything was needed, a check would be written directly to the vendor and a copy of the invoice would be attached to the check. He disputed several of the expenses noted on memo lines of the suspicious checks, saying they were not legitimate.

Gallagher arraigned Dorothy and Gerald Dennis on $100,000 unsecured bail each and set a preliminary hearing for Wednesday.

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