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Former Pa. detective charged with evidence theft

A former detective was charged Wednesday with taking cash out of the department's evidence room

By Tricia L. Nadolny
The Philadelphia Inquirer

COATESVILLE, Pa. — A former Coatesville detective accused of stealing more than $40,000 from the city's police union and athletic league was charged Wednesday with taking cash out of the department's evidence room.

Detectives during a July 2013 search found two police evidence envelopes, both empty, in the bedroom of Gerald Pawling's Coatesville home, according to a press release from the Chester County district attorney.

The envelopes, which should have contained about $5,800 total, were found tucked next to a dresser and in an underwear drawer, the release said.

Pawling's fingerprints were also found on another envelope still in the evidence room, which was missing $1,640, officials said.

"A desperate man will engage in desperate conduct," District Attorney Tom Hogan said in the release. "When the defendant fell into financial difficulties, he took care of his problems by stealing from his fellow officers, a charitable organization and even the police evidence room."

Pawling, a 17-year veteran of the department until he retired in 2012, was charged in August 2013 with stealing from the Coatesville Police Benevolent Association while serving as its treasurer and from the Coatesville Police Athletic Union while serving as its executive director.

On top of the new accusations that he stole from the evidence room, the district attorney's office on Wednesday also charged the 43-year-old Pawling with taking an additional $9,000 from those two groups.

Hogan said Pawling took nearly $2,800 from the athletic league to pave the driveway of his Walnut Street home. He is accused of purchasing about $7,000 in computer equipment, iPods, ink cartridges and school supplies on an account opened under the union's name at Staples, according to an affidavit in the case released by Hogan.

Union officials told investigators that they were not aware the group had that account and never approved purchases made there, according to the affidavit.

Pawling came under investigation in April 2013 when Coatesville detective Kevin Campbell, the incoming president of the police union, found discrepancies in the union's financial information.

According to a previous affidavit in the case, Pawling admitted in an August 2013 recorded interview to stealing $30,000 to $40,000 from the union between 2009 and 2012.

Hogan has said union funds typically are spent on fees for officers' legal defense and benefits for families of injured officers.

Coatesville police chief Jack Laufer Wednesday said the department was "once again saddened" by Pawling's actions, calling his conduct a betrayal of the public's trust. Laufer took over the department, which has been plagued by lawsuits and staffing shortfalls in the past and spent much of 2012 without a chief, in January 2013. Hogan said an audit on the evidence room started after Laufer was hired led to the discovery that money was missing from an envelope.

Pawling was previously charged with eight counts of forgery and 51 counts of theft and is facing additional counts of fraud, theft, forgery, tampering with public records and receiving stolen property.

Copyright 2014 The Philadelphia Inquirer

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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