Checks and cash stolen from churches Abingdon man charged in Harford County

December 17, 1997|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

Because of erroneous information provided by the Harford County Sheriff's Office, the name of a man charged with 16 counts, including theft, forgery and credit card offenses, was misspelled in yesterday's editions. His name is Frank J. Scandaliato.

The Sun regrets the error.

When police served a warrant at Frank J. Scandalito's house in Abingdon, they reported finding the place stuffed with $50,000 worth of toys, clothes, videocassette recorders and other electronic equipment.

But this was no Christmas scene. Police said yesterday that Scandalito, 41, bought the merchandise with credit cards, checks and cash stolen from dozens of churches in Harford and Baltimore counties and southern Pennsylvania.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

Among the items were more than $500 in checks made out to the National Baptist Convention and credit cards taken from the purses of parents who were aiding preschool teachers, police said.

"It's a shame, because churches are in the business of helping people, and someone does something like this. It's sad," said Sharon Jarrett, secretary of St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Belair, where a member's credit card was stolen in October.

Scandalito has been charged in Harford County with 16 counts, including theft, forgery and credit card offenses. He is also suspected in about 20 thefts in Baltimore County and six in Pennsylvania, police said, but has not been charged in those incidents.

Police said the credit cards, cash and checks were typically taken from church offices and classrooms.

Sgt. Edward Hopkins, spokesman for the Harford County sheriff's office, said Scandalito was spotted in November by a Baltimore County police detective who was visiting a Harford County church.

"The detective was alerted that a suspicious-looking individual was wandering around the church offices," Hopkins said. "When the detective questioned the man, he said he was looking for the preacher and left very quickly."

Hopkins said a sheriff's deputy wrote down Scandalito's license plate number and that investigators began establishing a pattern of church thefts, followed by bad checks being passed at local businesses.

When deputies served a warrant Monday at Scandalito's house in the 3600 block of Torey Lane, they found compact discs, Christmas decorations, a portable telephone, ceramics and cologne, Hopkins said.

Scandalito was being held yesterday at the Harford County Detention Center in lieu of $50,000 bail.

Despite the theft of hundreds of dollars worth of checks from his church, the Rev. William Rivers said he has faith in the goodness of people.

Rivers, pastor of Bel Forest Baptist Church in Bel Air, said his congregation is safety-conscious and never keeps cash around. The church will continue to serve its 150 members and others, he said, with a slight change.

L "We will never again leave checks in the desk," Rivers said.

"But you have to give everyone the benefit of the doubt."

Pub Date: 12/17/97

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