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Police: Director stole from preschool

Koller accused of embezzling $127,000 from Stay and Play

The former longtime director of an Altoona preschool faces charges that she embezzled more than $100,000 from the nonprofit, church-sponsored day care facility.

Kathleen Koller, 68, was arraigned Wednesday on felony theft-related charges stemming from an investigation by Altoona police into discrepancies at the Christ Community United Methodist Church’s Stay and Play preschool, which shuttered in May 2018 when questions arose about its finances.

According to the charges, Koller was director of the Altoona and Hollidaysburg Stay and Play preschools and had worked for the church for 30 years, handling all aspects of operations and administration. When church leaders found discrepancies in 2018, an outside accounting firm was brought in to go over the books.

Altoona police allege the accounting firm’s audit uncovered the theft of $126,839 from 2008-18, including $36,715 in unauthorized debit card transactions and the transfer of $25,804 from the church’s bank accounts to two bank accounts later found to be Koller’s personal accounts.

Koller was the only person with a debit card for the preschool, police said.

Two out-of-state ATM withdrawals were made, and although police said Koller admitted to the $1,011 in withdrawals when she spoke to auditors, she claimed they were a mistake.

Police noted the money was never paid back.

The audit also uncovered four unauthorized and previously unknown bank accounts for the Altoona preschool, as well as unauthorized payments that included an insurance payment not connected to the church or preschool, a personal loan payment for Koller and a $959 payment to Koller’s husband.

Previous years were unable to be examined because bank records between 1995 and 2007 had been purged by the bank, police noted. Police said a former preschool employee who stopped working there in 2011 was contacted after police found her name attached to one of Koller’s accounts.

The former employee said she knew of the account but thought it was closed when she left the preschool.

The former employee also reviewed transactions from the church’s accounts and told investigators that besides buying pizza for the children or other special meals, the transactions showed to her by police did not seem legitimate.

Those transactions included a jewelry store, two salons that Koller allegedly patronized, a pharmacy and two home improvement stores, according to the charges. Police said it was “small portion” of the transactions and most of the complete list of bank account transactions were not legitimate.

Police said Koller declined to speak to officers when she was contacted in October 2019.

Koller is charged with a total of 133 felony counts and was released on an unsecured $50,000 bond following her arraignment before Magisterial District Judge Ben Jones. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for March 4 at Central Court.

Mirror Staff Writer Greg Bock is at 946-7458.

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