Misty Sue Whitsel, 41, of Rockhill Furnace, allegedly pocketed $106,803.09 while working at the Blue Juniata VFW Post 5754 in Shirley Township, near Mount Union, from July 2018 until August 2019, according to charges filed by state police. She served as general manager of the club starting in November 2018.
The club notified state police of the suspected theft in August 2019 and in Sept. 2020, state police received a forensic audit report of the club’s books. As general manager, Whitsel’s duties included paying the club’s bills, making bank deposits, bookkeeping, payroll and dealing with the small games of chance proceeds, state police pointed out.
The forensic audit cost the VFW post $35,000 and the organization is seeking that money as well as the more than $100,000 in stolen money as restitution.
When state police questioned Whitsel in September, she allegedly admitted to stealing money from the post, mainly from the cash drawers and from the skills game machines. She told state police she was “in an extreme amount of debt,” according to the charges.
“It really tied our hands as far as what we could do for our vets out there,” said Post Commander Jody Campbell of the impact of the theft. Campell said the organization wasn’t able to help other groups or veterans as they would normally do through such things as the MilitaryShare Program through the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank.
“It basically shut us down,” Campbell said.
While the theft was a tough blow to the VFW post, the timing made the situation even harder. Campbell said the pilfered money would have helped the organization weather this year’s shutdown and their ability to bring in revenue.
“We could have survived a little easier without this,” he said of the missing money. “At one point, we were concerned we would be shutting the doors for good.”
That didn’t happen and the Blue Juniata VFW Post 5754 remains open. Campbell said the experience has also led to new policies to guard against any theft in the future.
Whitsel was arraigned Monday night on felony charges of theft and receiving stolen property. Bail was set at 10 percent of $100,000 and Whitsel was placed in Huntingdon County Jail with a preliminary hearing scheduled for Feb. 3.