WILKES-BARRE – A Nanticoke woman charged with taking nearly $20,000 in students’ payments for breakfasts and lunches pleaded guilty Monday to six related charges.
Jacqueline Ruchinski, 62, of East Church Street, entered the plea to six felony counts of theft by failure to make required disposition of funds.
Assistant District Attorney Michelle Hardik said Ruchinski faces a maximum of seven years in prison on each charge. Luzerne County Judge Michael Vough said Ruchinski, who is free on bail, will be sentenced on Sept. 13.
Ruchinski is represented by attorney Edward Bezdecki.
Ruchinski was in charge of the Greater Nanticoke Area Educational Center’s cafeteria account and collected students’ breakfast and lunch payments.
When Nancy Butzek, business office secretary, asked Ruchinski about a missing $8 deposit slip for a student’s account on April 18, Ruchinski said she will need to find it.
Butzek examined Ruchinski’s cafeteria report and allegedly noticed other missing deposit slips. Butzek confronted Ruchinski about the missing slips and Ruchinski replied in a panic, “I can fix it. Tell me when and how much,” the complaint says.
Ruchinski offered to use her own money to correct deposit shortages and was told by Butzek she could not do that. Butzek advised Ruchinski if she did something wrong, she needed to talk to the school’s principal.
After telling the principal she allegedly stole money, a meeting was arranged with district Superintendent Anthony Perrone.
Ruchinski allegedly told school officials she pocketed “$10 here or $20 there” from 2006 through 2012.
An audit by the state Office of Auditor General for those years allegedly found a $19,427 shortage in the cafeteria account at the school district’s Educational Center for sixth and seventh grades.
Ruchinski, a secretary in the district for 20 years, was suspended without pay after the meeting with Perrone.
Perrone could not be reached for comment Monday.