Former Pa. EMS agency officials to plead guilty to stealing funds
Police said former Morrisville Ambulance Squad members Brian Eckert and Ruth Rookstool stole $130,000 from the agency
By Thomas Friestad
Bucks County Courier Times
BUCKS COUNTY, Pa. — Bucks County prosecutors have reached a deal with two former Morrisville Ambulance Squad members who authorities allege stole $130,000.
Brian Eckert, 41, of Langhorne, and Ruth "Roxy" Rookstool, 58, of Morrisville, will pay full restitution to the borough and Falls, the nonprofit squad's primary funding sources. Both also are to plead guilty to theft by unlawful taking, insurance fraud and two conspiracy charges, and Eckert to a forgery charge, said deputy district Attorney Marc Furber.
Authorities agreed to downgrade the forgery, theft and related conspiracy charges from third-degree felonies to first-degree misdemeanors if Eckert and Rookstool complete their restitution payments to the municipalities by the trial date. The insurance fraud and related conspiracy charges already are first-degree misdemeanor counts.
Eckert, the former squad's chief, and Rookstool, its operations supervisor, waived their preliminary hearing Tuesday morning and are to be formally arraigned in county court on March 29, where a trial date will be set.
A primary consideration of the deal, said Furber, was ensuring that Morrisville and Falls were paid back the allegedly stolen taxpayer dollars in a timely fashion. Had officials fought the case and secured convictions, Furber said, the county's probation and parole department likely would have set restitution payments for Eckert and Rookstool at a few hundred dollars each month, taking years for the municipalities to receive the full amounts.
"It's a benefit for the taxpayers that were victimized here, and the municipalities," said Furber. "The defendants will get a benefit out of this, but they're still going to stand convicted, and they're still going to face sentencing on these counts and have to take responsibility for their actions."
First-degree misdemeanor convictions in Pennsylvania can result in 2.5 to 5 years' jail time and fines up to $10,000, while third-degree felony convictions can entail 3.5 to 7 years' imprisonment and fines up to $15,000.
Furber said Eckert ultimately will pay about $30,000 while Rookstool will pay about $11,000 to $12,000 in restitution to the municipalities. Of the combined total, 86.1 percent is to be returned to Morrisville, with 13.9 percent returned to Falls, based on a breakdown of their payments to Morrisville Ambulance Squad.
Independent from the agreement, Rookstool still will be required to pay further restitution to the insurance companies involved, with which officials will work to determine a timetable and how much money is requested, Furber said.
County detectives charged the pair in November, saying Eckert swindled $30,785.44 and Rookstool swiped $101,634.55 through various means, including direct theft, unauthorized transactions, false reimbursements and insurance fraud between 2011 and early 2018.
Per probable cause affidavits, Eckert and Rookstool split the cost of a squad member's honeymoon, and Eckert made unauthorized payments on an Amazon Prime membership, veterinary care and a dishwasher. Rookstool also is alleged to have enrolled in four different health and dental insurance plans through the squad without meeting minimum work hour requirements, and with the squad making premium payments in excess of employer responsibility percentages.
The 36-year-old Morrisville Ambulance Squad ceased operations in 2018, after months of financial and staffing shortages. Trenton-based Capital Health took over the squad's former coverage area, encompassing all of Morrisville and part of Falls, in September after striking agreements with both municipalities.
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