Witnesses testify against ex-Legion official

Jess P. Hackenburg, who has been charged with forging club member’s names and embezzling about $130,000 from the American Legion Post 104 in Montoursville, faced a preliminary hearing Monday afternoon before District Judge Gary Whiteman.

Several witnesses were called to the stand, but, ultimately, Whiteman decided to continue the hearing at a later date.

“I see that there are several more people here to testify, and I don’t want anyone to feel rushed. This case deserves the amount of time it takes, and I don’t think we can finish this today,” Whiteman said, of the hearing.

Police allege that Hackenburg, who served as the club’s financial officer and treasurer for eight years, manipulated the club’s bank accounts and forged signatures on documents, which gave him the power to increase a $10,000 line of credit at Muncy Bank and Trust first to $50,000 in July 2011, and then to $95,000 in January 2012.

Several club members testified that their signatures had been forged on bank documents.

Robert Speacht, former post commander, recalled authorizing a $10,000 line of credit to be opened with Muncy Bank and Trust in December 2010, but testified that he never authorized Hackleman to increase that line of credit.

Ruth Schneider, of Muncy Bank and Trust, testified that Hackenburg, Frank Brass, former member of the club’s board of directors, and Speacht had been in her office when the original $10,000 line of credit was opened. After that, she dealt mostly with Hackenburg, who provided her the necessary paperwork to increase the credit line.

Mark Budda, post secretary, noted that his name was misspelled on one of the documents.

“That appears to be a misspelling of my name at the bottom of this document,” he said. He explained that this middle initial was incorrect, and his last name was spelled “Buddaa.”

During the hearing Michael Bennet, former post commander, testified that he did not approve the increase either, and mentioned that his signature on bank records also appeared to be forged. He did recall asking Hackenburg to “get in touch with a bank” to find out more about a line of credit.

During his time as an officer at the Legion, Bennet said he asked for bank statements and information on the club’s bank accounts on numerous occasions, because he wanted to do an audit. He said he was never provided with the proper documentation to do so.

Hackenburg was asked to step down from his post as treasurer after the club’s board of directors allegedly discovered multiple bank accounts in the Legion’s name to which they neither knew about nor had access. They then contacted state police and requested an investigation.

Hackenburg was arraigned before Whiteman on Sept. 19 and released on $40,000 bail. His preliminary hearing will continue before Whiteman at 8:30 a.m. on Oct. 18.