Keith Kristek, a 57-year-old father of seven who has resigned as a constable in Pittsburgh, was sentenced to three years in prison this Tuesday. He admitted to gambling away more than $1 million of stolen tax collector's money.
According to Kristek, playing jackpot casino slots was the worst thing that has ever happened to him. He commented about continually visiting the casino and his constant, snowballing losses.
The theft happened in 2007, when he stole $1 million worth of money that was supposed to go to the Ambridge Area School District and another $46,000 that was supposed to go to Baden borough, the area where Cynthia, his wife, was working as the elected tax collector.
Kristek said he was desperate to win the money back.
When he was in a casino, a call from the Beaver Country district attorney came in, and he was asked about the money that went missing last year. In the end, he was charged with filing false tax returns as well as mail fraud. In June, Kristek pleaded guilty.
Charles Bowers III, Kristek's defense attorney, argued for leniency based on Kristek's time in the military, clear record, and time spent working as a police officer. Regardless of that, US District Judge Arthur Schwab sentenced him to 37 months in prison.
According to Assistant US Attorney Lee Karl, the financial damage to the borough and the school district warranted prison. He said that the district had to put several measures in place to cover the financial losses, including putting off buying textbooks, not making technology improvements, and cutting personnel.
Cynthia Kristek was not charged.
Kristek will have to return the money at a rate of 10 percent of his gross wages once he gets out of prison. Currently, he's working as a street sweeper earning $9 an hour, so the chances are he's never going to be able to repay the money he stole.