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Cheryl Ruth, retired Bethlehem police officer, accused of stealing $19,000 from department, PennLive LLC
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Bethlehem, PA

Retired Bethlehem police Sgt. Cheryl Ruth is accused of stealing $19,271 while she was in charge of the department's property room, a news release from the police department says. She allegedly used the money to fuel Atlantic City gambling binges.

Ruth, 46, ran the city's evidence room, where police store evidence related to criminal cases -- drugs, guns and money, among other items -- from 2001 to 2008. According to court papers, she stole between $279 and $7,858 each year.

Ruth retired last year after being on medical leave, the news release says.

Police conducted an audit of funds in the property room, according to court papers, when officer Frank Rossnagle took charge of the evidence room in September 2008 and Rossnagle believed money was missing, according to court papers. A second audit found the same result, and a third, top-to-bottom audit of the entire evidence room found that only the money was absent.

Lt. Mark DiLuzio said the investigation into the alleged thefts took 18 months. The room contains hundreds of thousands of dollars seized in raids and searches.

Police allege Ruth began pilfering cash in 2000 and stopped in 2007. Her largest alleged thefts occurred in 2003, 2004 and 2005 when she stole $2,093, $7,858 and $5,458, according to court papers.

Police said Ruth admitted to the thefts during a polygraph test administered by state police, and said she used the cash to support a gambling habit and trips to Atlantic City.

She was charged with felony-grade theft and receiving stolen property. She was released on $25,000 unsecured bail.

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