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Lower Rescue Driver Sentenced for Theft

 

By Jack Fichter

COURT HOUSE — Christina Von Collen, 30, a former Lower Township Rescue Squad wheelchair van driver who pled guilty to stealing money from the purse of an elderly patient she was transporting was sentenced to 90 days in the county jail with four years probation Friday Feb. 27 by Superior Court Judge Susan Maven.
Von Collen pled guilty in Superior Court Dec. 12, 2008 to stealing $750 from the purse of Villas resident Clara Coan, an 85-year old widow.
Coan was driven home from the hospital in a Lower Township Rescue Squad wheelchair van driven by Von Collen and discovered $750 cash and a $560 Veteran’s Administration check was missing from her purse.
Coan went to Cape Regional Medical Center July 3, 2008 with symptoms of a heart attack. She said before going to the hospital, she put aside $750 in cash and a $560 VA check in an envelope in her purse to buy two new storm doors for her home.
Coan told the Herald she took the money with her to the hospital because she was afraid someone would break into her home while she was in the hospital.
She was kept overnight at Cape Regional Medical Center. Her money was kept in a safe at the hospital and returned in full when she left, said Coan.
Coan said she and a security guard counted the money before she left the hospital. She said Von Collen put her purse between herself and the driver’s side door.
Von Collen made a $250 payment to the court before her sentencing Feb. 27.
Assistant Deputy Public Defender Mary Linehan said Von Collen had become pregnant and was due to a deliver a baby around March 30. Linehan said the county jail would not want to accept her until after she delivered the child and suggested an alternative plan such as the Sheriff’s Labor Assistance Program (SLAP) which involves community service such as picking up litter on roadsides.
Assistant County Prosecutor James Herlihy read a statement from Coan in which she said she was frustrated by the lengthy process to recover her money. In her statement, Coan said it was the only money that she had and had suffered sleepless nights and depression as a result of the theft.
Coan vowed to “fight until her last breath” to get her money returned.
Herilhy said Von Collen, as Lower Township Rescue Squad ambulance driver, violated the public trust by stealing money from Coan’s purse. He noted the victim was well over the age of 60.
Herlihy said Von Collen had a “juvenile record” as well as adult conduct problems. He said he had no problem with an alternative to 90 days in jail due to her pregnancy and caring for one of her three children in her home.
Herlihy noted she failed to repay Coan in a timely manner due to her unemployment checks being taken for child support payments of two children not living with her. He noted members of the community came to Coan’s aid with financial contributions and making repairs to her house.
Linehan asked Von Collen be given until summer to repay Coan, taking into consideration of her pregnancy and need to find employment.
Maven asked Von Collen if someone would care for the expected infant while she served jail time. Von Collen said someone would do so.
Maven said she was struck by the nature of the incident with Von Collen taking advantage of someone in a vulnerable position. She said Von Collen violated the public trust by her actions and stole money from an elderly person with limited resources.
Maven called it a “terrible, terrible situation.” She noted initially Von Collen denied her guilt but later admitted it. She said Von Collen had the opportunity to make right the situation but failed to do so.
Maven questioned Von Collen’s actions, which caused her termination from the rescue squad when jobs are scarce. She said Von Collen had been arrested 12 times in 15 years, was not married with three children with another one on the way.
Von Collen was in a parenting and anger management program from Youth and Family Services, said the judge.
The start of Von Collen’s jail sentence was delayed due to her pregnancy. Maven ordered Von Collen to report to jail on May 1. She did not rule out an alternative to incarceration.
Von Collen must make full restitution by Sept. 1.

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