Embezzlement by vet alleged

Charges have been filed against Jess P. Hackenburg, former financial officer for American Legion Post 104 in Montoursville. Investigators allege that Hackenburg used his position to embezzle about $130,000 from the club over a two-year period and forged club members’ names on bank records.

Hackenburg, 69, of 337 Jordan Ave. in Montoursville, faces felony charges for theft and five counts of forgery.

A retired Army sergeant, Hackenburg has been a longtime member of the legion. Over the past seven years, he has served as the club’s finance officer and treasurer. This position gave him direct access to all of the post’s bank accounts. He ran all of the club’s banking records and issued all checks, according to court records.

State police began investigating Hackenburg on July 17 at the request of the club’s board of directors. According to police, board members had grown suspicious after Hackenburg refused to hand over the club’s complete financial statement in 2012. The board subsequently asked him to resign from his position.

A short time later, members discovered a $95,000 line of credit account in the club’s name at Muncy Bank and Trust, which they were unable to access. Documents from the bank showed that Hackenburg and two former club board members opened the $10,000 credit account in 2010 using the club’s property as collateral. Hackenburg allegedly filed papers to increase that credit line to $50,000 in July 2011 and then to $95,000 in January 2012. While filing the requests, Hackenburg allegedly provided the bank with several Resolutions of the American Legion approving the increase in credit. The documents contained the included forged signatures of Michael Bennett, former post commander; Frederick Brass, former member of the board of directors; Mark Buddah, former post adjutant; and Robert Speacht, another former post commander, according to police.

Between Nov. 7, 2011, and Aug. 10, 2012, 16 checks had been written from the account to Jess Hackenburg or “Jess Hackenburg & Sons” – Hackenburg’s self-owned business.

Hackenburg also managed the club’s nine separate accounts at Sovereign Bank. After digging deeper into the bank records, investigators found numerous “suspicious money transfers” and 162 checks written to Hackenburg. In total, the transactions amounted to about $35,100.

One of these checks, which was issued to the post for $800, allegedly had been endorsed by Hackenburg’s wife. The memo line read “petty cash,” according to court records. Many other checks written to Hackenburg had memo lines that read “change” or “donation,” according to court records.

Police interviewed Hackenburg on Aug. 17. He told them he is retired and makes a living doing odd jobs and small airplane engine repair. The post had been struggling financially for some time, and it often was difficult to find the necessary funds to pay all of its bills, Hackenburg allegedly said.

However, police noted that Hackenburg always had managed to find enough money to pay himself for his own services. He allegedly received a salary for his position as treasurer and was assigned the snow removal contract for the post, records state.

In regard to the missing bank statements, Hackenburg allegedly said the financial records always had been available for members to peruse, though no one ever wanted to look at them. Later, he allegedly admitted that he carried the documents on his person for several months and expressed a desire to “throw all of the records in the dumpster,” according to police.

The investigation heated up further when police began looking into Hackenburg’s personal and business bank accounts. One account, in particular, caught their eyes. Seven cash deposits made throughout the fiscal year ending on December 2010 apparently had been used by Hackenburg to pay for him and his wife’s medical expenses. In total, about $65,000 in cash was deposited into Hackenburg’s various accounts between January 2010 and December 2012, records state.

Officers interviewed Hackenburg again on Aug. 19. When asked to provide a record of his income over the last three years, Hackenburg admitted that he never had much cash on hand, due to his retirement. Although he sometimes picked up an odd job, Hackenburg told police that his customers would be unlikely to pay him via large cash payment, records state.

Hackenburg was arraigned before District Judge Gary Whiteman on Thursday. He has been released on $40,000 bail.