Update: The DuBois City Council confirmed on Nov. 15 that they’ll approve up to $10,000 in attorney fees for city personnel who are called to testify in the case against Suplizio.
CLEARFIELD, Pa. (WTAJ) – New charges have been filed against former DuBois City Manager, John F. “Herm” Suplizio.
On Wednesday, Suplizio, 62, of DuBois, was charged with 13 felonies and 10 misdemeanors. These include five counts of theft, four counts of proceeds of unlawful acts for avoiding transaction reporting requirements, one count of obstruction of administration law, and eight counts of fraud of sales tax return.
Suplizio has allegedly stolen from public accounts and committed tax fraud
A criminal complaint was filed in Clearfield County on Oct. 4 alleging that between 2014 and 2022, Suplizio stole monies from public accounts, committed tax fraud and had fraudulent charges in relation to his private JP Morgan Chase Visa account and multiple public accounts he had access to in his role as city manager.
During an investigation conducted by a special agent employed by the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General, Bureau of Criminal Investigation, it was found that Suplizio used his personal credit card to make purchases for the city, for which he was reimbursed. He then wrote off these expenditures as tax deductions on his personal income tax returns.
It was found that Suplizio had received reimbursement payments for his mileage and personal cell phone from the city and the DuBois Area United Way, for which he was the executive director at the time of these alleged thefts. He labeled these expenses as “unreimbursed” business expenses on his Federal taxes, essentially triple-dipping those expenditures.
Suplizio allegedly used multiple public accounts to which he had access to pay for personal expenses. In total, the criminal complaint has accused him of the following:
A total theft of $369,472.40 from the following accounts:
- via JP Morgan Chase Visa = $57,586.82
- City of DuBois General Fund Account = $3,000.00
- DuBois Area United Way Checking Account = $11,040.58
- DuBois Volunteer Fire Department Parade Committee Account = $25,000.00
- DuBois Volunteer Fire Department Flex CD Community Fund Account = $174,485.00
- DuBois Volunteer Fire Department Checking Community Fund Account = $98,360.00
Tax fraud associated with public accounts equating to $181,360.56 from the following accounts:
- City of DuBois General Fund Account = $26,077.56
- DuBois Area United Way Checking Account = $20,640.00
- DuBois Volunteer Fire Department Parade Committee Account = $65,171.18
- DuBois Volunteer Fire Department Flex CD Community Fund Account = $30,397.07
- DuBois Volunteer Fire Department Checking Community Fund Account = $39,074.75
A total of $550,832.96 in fraudulent charges relating to the following accounts:
- via JP Morgan Chase Visa = $57,586.82
- City of DuBois General Fund Account = $29,077.56
- DuBois Area United Way Checking Account = $31,680.58
- DuBois Volunteer Fire Department Parade Committee Account = $90,171.18
- DuBois Volunteer Fire Department Flex CD Community Fund Account = $204,882.07
- DuBois Volunteer Fire Department Checking Community Fund Account = $137,434.75
Suplizio was charged with five counts of theft by taking moveable property and eight counts of fraud of sales tax return back in March by the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General. Officials said he allegedly used $620,815 from city and public accounts to pay his personal credit card bills, make political donations and gamble. He was also charged with one count of restricted activities for conflict of interest and one count of misapplying entrusted property.
Suplizio was arraigned on these new charges on Wednesday at noon. He has been released on $100,000 unsecured bail and was required to surrender his passport as a term of his bail.
Sandy Township has filed a complaint to avoid consolidation with the city of DuBois
While Sandy Township and the City of DuBois had initially began efforts to consolidate, Sandy Township halted discussions back in May because of the charges filed against Suplizio. In June, they filed a complaint to halt the process with the courts to prevent putting a burden on their taxpayers, according to the township manager.
Suplizio allegedly stole money using a Steelers benefit basketball game as a cover
In 2015, the Pittsburgh Steelers played a charity basketball game to benefit the DuBois Area United Way (DAUW). In April 2015, a check for $3,900 from the DAUW checking account was made payable to “cash” and cashed by Suplizio. This check was alleged to have been payment to the Steelers for their participation. Investigators became aware that the agreement made between the DAUW and the Steelers was for a sharing of ticket sales, with the Steelers getting $4.20 per ticket sold, with a minimum payment of $3,900 and the DAUW getting $2.80 for per ticket sold. No cash deposit corresponding to the benefit was ever made into any known DAUW accounts.
A similar alleged incident occurred in March 2018. A check for $4,200 was made payable to Suplizio and cashed by Suplizio from the DAUW checking account, again believed to be payment to the Pittsburgh Steelers for their participation in another benefit basketball game. A similar agreement of a sharing of ticket sales was reached with a minimum payment of $4,200 but no deposit of ticket sales proceeds were made into any of the known DAUW accounts.
DuBois Solicitor Toni Cherry allegedly hid money from investigators
In September 2022, investigators became aware that DAUW employees discovered a large amount of cash in a green zippered bag in a safe at the DAUW building. The money was not counted and was left in the safe. Months later, in December 2022, one of those same DAUW employees accessed the safe and found the cash was no longer there.
While cleaning and removing exposed television cables at the DAUW building, that same employee discovered three metal lock boxes fastened to the walls above the ceiling of the DAUW offices in March 2023. Later that month, while cleaning, the employee noticed ceiling tile debris on the floor of the offices, indicating the ceiling had been accessed. A fourth metal lock box was found at this time. The four keys corresponding to these lock boxes were later found in Suplizio’s desk at the DAUW building.
One week later, on March 28, DuBois Solicitor Toni Cherry left a voicemail for DAUW Solicitor CJ Zwick saying she ordered the money in the green zippered bag that had been in the safe to be brought to her because it was Community Fund money and not United Way money.
On May 2, 2023 Cherry delivered $93,920 cash in a gift bag to City of DuBois Police Chief Blaine Clark and Interim City Manager Chris Nasuti while meeting with Sandy Township officials at DuBois City Hall. Nasuti and Clark deposited the money at S&T Bank in a new account under the City of DuBois.
Cherry attended an executive session of the DuBois Council on May 13 where she told Council the money was brought to her by Suplizio and she kept it for six weeks since March to keep the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General from confiscating it.
On June 22, in an interview with investigators at her office, Cherry confirmed that Suplizio brought her the cash but said she could not remember when Suplizio had given it to her.
Suplizio has allegedly attempted to obstructed justice in former Mayor Randy Schmidt case
In 2020, a Sheetz employee who worked as a loss investigation and security operation manager received a call from a store who reported a man coming into the store frequently to order a made-to-order sandwich. While waiting for the sandwich, the man would walk around the store, collect other food items and pile them up on the counter. When the sandwich was ready, he would pay for it and put the other items in the sandwich bag without paying for them.
A review of surveillance video from the store indicated that the man was then DuBois Mayor Randy Schmidt.
He allegedly committed such thefts on 16 separate occasions.
On Aug. 7, 2020, a loss prevention officer stopped Schmidt as he attempted to carry out his theft scheme. The officer called the police and DuBois City officers responded. The Chief of Police arrived and advised that he “didn’t know what they would be doing,” but that he’d be in touch, explaining that he didn’t know if there was enough evidence to support criminal charges.
The district manager of Sheetz was notified of the incident.
Suplizio allegedly subsequently approached the district manager and asked if anything could be done to make to pay restitution and “make it go away.” When the district manager said there was not anything that could be done, Suplizio responded that it was a shame because Sheetz had always had such a good working relationship with the City of DuBois and it would be a shame if something happened to change that.
In a second phone call between the Sheetz district manager and Suplizio, the district manager told Suplizio that the store would be pursuing charges and that Schmidt would not be getting any special treatment. Suplizio was informed that Chief of Police from the City of DuBois was also on the call. In this conversation, Suplizio made a remark about how embarrassing charges against the mayor would be for the City. “Wouldn’t it be easier to just handle this differently?” he asked the district manager.
Charges were eventually filed by Pennsylvania State Police following a delay by the Chief of Police in making a referral due to conflict of interest. In September 2020, Schmidt was charged with one count of retail theft and one count of receiving stolen property. He pleaded guilty to both in October 2020.
The Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General has filed felony charges against Suplizio
Attorney General (AG) Michelle Henry charged Suplizio based on the above facts outlined in the police complaint and the 48th statewide investigating grand jury for the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania and the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas.
“Instead of acting in the best interests of the community he was supposed to serve, the defendant used his position to line his own pockets and abused his authority for personal gain,” AG Henry said. “This arrest is a reminder that no one is above the law, and that everyone who holds public office in Pennsylvania is accountable to the people.”
On Oct. 4, AG Henry charged Suplizio with:
- one felony count of theft by unlawful taking of movable property
- three felony counts of theft by deception
- one felony count of theft by failure to make required disposition of funds
- one felony count of dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities
- one felony count of knowledge that property is proceeds of illegal acts
- four felony counts of proceeds of unlawful acts
- two felony counts of restricted activities
- one misdemeanor count of obstruction of administrative law, in relation to the incident with Mayor Schmidt
- one misdemeanor count of misapplying entrusted property
- eight misdemeanor counts of fraud sales tax return
Suplizio is scheduled to appear for his preliminary hearing on Nov. 28 at 10 a.m.
WTAJ reached out to the AG’s office who could not offer additional comment at this time.
Stick with WTAJ news on-air and online as we continue to cover this case.
This is a developing story, please check back for updates and download the WTAJ app to receive breaking news notifications.