Attorney General Shapiro Announces Criminal Charges against Westmoreland County Sheriff
Sheriff Jonathan Held Facing Theft Charges Related to Electioneering While on Duty
HARRISBURG – Attorney General Josh Shapiro today announced criminal charges against the Westmoreland County Sheriff for directing sheriff’s officers to seek and collect political contributions for his reelection campaign while on active duty.
Sheriff Jonathan Held, 43, of Main Street, Claridge, was charged today with theft of services, theft by unlawful taking and conflict of interest. The conflict of interest charge is a felony.
“Law enforcement officers are sworn to protect and serve our communities – not to seek contributions for their political campaign while they’re on duty,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “That is theft – of tax dollars and the community’s right to public safety. No one is above the law. I’ll pursue this kind of public corruption wherever I find it across the Commonwealth.”
Beginning in 2015, Held assigned at least one deputy to solicit for donations for his “I Out Shot the Sheriff” campaign fundraiser while on duty.
The officers made phone calls during business hours and collected contributions including checks, gift cards, firearms and other merchandise while in uniform and using a county-issued vehicle. One deputy estimated he spent two or three hours a day, usually twice a week, soliciting for the fundraiser while on active duty.
After deputies collected the gifts, they passed them off to a supervisor who entered the donation into a county-owned computer. Investigators believe the list of solicited businesses was compiled by using the Federal Firearms License database, which the sheriff’s office can access.
Following the discovery of the Office of Attorney General’s investigation into the misconduct, one witness said the sheriff discussed altering a deputy’s time sheets to indicate he was taking paid time off while soliciting businesses for donations. Officers suspected of cooperating with the Attorney General’s investigation were punished by having their shifts changed.
Held turned himself in at the Westmoreland County Magistrate’s Office this afternoon for his preliminary arraignment. He was released pending a preliminary hearing on March 15. The case is being prosecuted by Deputy Attorney General Bobbi Jo Wagner.
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