Canton woman charged in raffle fraud
TROY - A 41-year-old Canton woman received at least $16,000 by running a phony raffle under the pretense of helping a local family adopting special needs children from Ukraine, said state police at Towanda.
Police said Lynette Karen Shedden-Chaapel, 41, of Canton, was charged Tuesday with theft by deception, a felony of the third degree. She has been unable to produce any of the money, police said.
Police said the incident occurred from Jan. 1, 2010 to Jan. 21, 2011 in Columbia Township and other areas in Bradford County.
According to police, Shedden-Chaapel was placed in the Bradford County Correctional Facility in lieu of $50,000 bail following an arraignment by Magisterial District Judge Jonathan Wilcox in Troy. Police said the charge came from an investigation in which it was found that Shedden-Chaapel approached a local family adopting three special needs children from Ukraine and offered to operate a raffle to help with the adoption costs. Police identified the victim as the White Family Adoption Charity Fund.
At least 1,600 tickets were sold for $10 each, police said. According to police, the adopting family became suspicious when they made numerous attempts and requests to hold the raffle and Shedden-Chaapel continued stalling. Police said it was found that Shedden-Chaapel misled and deceived the adopting family, and it's "very clear the White Family Adoption Charity Fund was not involved in this fraud in any manner."
Police said that, as of the date of the release, Shedden-Chaapel has been unable to produce any of the $16,000 (minimum) that she directly received from the sale of the raffle tickets or show any financial statements or receipts of where the money went.
According to an affidavit:
The investigation started when Sherry White, no age or address given, told state police at Towanda around 2 p.m. Jan. 21 about the incident. In the fall of 2009, White and her husband were planning to adopt the children from Ukraine.
Shedden-Chaapel approached White on Facebook, asking if she could lend a hand by selling raffle tickets to assist with the adoption costs.
The affidavit continues:
On Jan. 24, 2010, Shedden-Chaapel met with White and provided her 1,000 tickets to sell and stated that she was retaining 1,000 to sell. During the summer of 2010, White sold all of her tickets and Shedden-Chaapel provided White 600 more to sell. Shedden-Chaapel went to the White residence and collected about $7,000.
Then, White sold 100 tickets more and gave back 500 unsold tickets to Shedden-Chaapel on Nov. 18, as well as another $4,000.
Shedden-Chaapel allegedly told White that the money was headed to an escrow account that was managed by Donald White, no age or address given, in Troy. When Donald White was contacted, he knew nothing of the account, police said.
Shedden-Chaapel told White attorney Matthew Brann was overseeing the raffle. However, Brann's office doesn't have any records of being involved, police said.
According to police, Shedden-Chaapel told White that Integrity Fundraising in Olyphant, Pa., was running the raffle, and that she bought 2,000 raffle tickets from a Kutztown printer.
Later, it was learned that she had bought 5,000 raffle tickets, the affidavit notes.
The formal charge against Shedden-Chaapel stated that she intentionally obtained or withheld property, namely raffle tickets and/or proceeds valued at $50,000 belonging to the White Adoption Charity Fund.
According to state trooper David Pelachick, Shedden-Chaapel stated that she didn't have any of the money the Whites gave her nor did she have any from the tickets that she sold. Shedden-Chaapel stated that she "passed the money along" to private investors, Pelachick said, and when asked who the private investors were, she refused and stated that they wish to remain anonymous.
Pelachick informed Shedden-Chaapel that she needed to furnish documents or financial records showing where the money went. On Jan. 24, Pelachick said he received a call from Shedden-Chaapel stating that if he wanted to talk with her, he would have to schedule an appointment with her attorney and that she would not be giving him any of the requested documents. Wilcox said a preliminary hearing for Shedden-Chaapel is scheduled for Feb. 1.
Anyone with additional information about this or any similar incidents is asked to contact Pelachick at (570) 265-2186.
Eric Hrin can be reached at (570) 297-5251; or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.