Valley employee charged with $250K of embezzlement

Donna Groff

VALLEY — A township employee faces charges that she embezzled more than $250,000 from township funds to pay for medical bills and online purchases of clothes, shoes and jewelry as part of an alleged “shopping addiction.”

Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan announced Wednesday the arrest of Donna Groff for allegedly stealing more than $250,000 from her employer, Valley Township, where she worked as the receptionist and secretary at the township building on Lincoln Highway for about a decade.

Groff reportedly spent most of the money buying clothes, jewelry, shoes, and other items online, claiming that she had a “shopping addiction.” She has been charged with felony theft and related offenses.

The defendant is 70 years old. She lives in Downingtown.

“Whether you are a business or a government agency, you are vulnerable to fraud,” Hogan said. “You must have strong oversight and robust systems in place to prevent theft. Valley Township was victimized by this trusted employee, acting merely to amuse herself, and now the taxpayers will foot the bill.”

The allegations against Groff came after another township employee reportedly found large discrepancies in the township’s bank accounts while reconciling accounts for water, sewer and trash payments — with cash payments not being deposited to the township bank account and “fraudulent deposit slips” having apparently been generated.

The Chester County Detectives were called to investigate. Based on an extensive review of records, interviews, and other evidence, the detectives say Groff had been systematically embezzling from the township for at least four years.

Groff allegedly stole cash payments for water, sewer, and trash bills. She simply put the cash into her purse and walked out with it at the end of the day. She fabricated fraudulent bank deposit slips and altered bookkeeping records to cover up the crime.

Groff stole a total of $264,577.87 from Valley Township. She initially used the money to pay for medical and dental bills. However, she claimed a “shopping addiction” and spent the majority of the money in hundreds of transactions with QVC and other shopping outlets. She used the stolen money to buy designer clothes, jewelry, shoes, makeup, decorations for her home, and other items.

She  was fired by Valley Township when the thefts were discovered. She has been arrested for felony theft, tampering with records, unlawful use of a computer, and other crimes. Bail was set at $100,000 unsecured.

“This investigation is ongoing,” Hogan said. “Valley Township needs to do a comprehensive audit of the township’s finances to determine if there are any other problems or systemic weaknesses.”

This case was investigated by the Chester County Detectives. Anybody with any further information should contact Detective Keith Cowdright at (610) 344- 6866. The assigned prosecutor is Alex Gosfield.

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