LH woman held for trial on forgery charges

LOCK HAVEN — A city woman was bound over for trial on four counts of felony forgery that allegedly occurred when she was employed by a former local business.

After an hour-long preliminary hearing Tuesday, District Judge Frank Mills found there was sufficient evidence to move the case against Beth Berfield to the next level. He dismissed one count of forgery.

The charges were filed by Lock Haven City Police Officer Elizabeth Gregory after an investigation into allegations made by Bonnie Haines, former owner of Bonnie’s Hair, Nails and Tanning Salon, and her husband, Foster Haines, who owned Simply Formal, a gown and tuxedo shop in the same building on Main Street.

The charges allege that Berfield forged Bonnie Haines’ name on credit applications for several clothing companies and intended to purchase clothing, sell it and keep the money herself.

Both Bonnie and Foster testified they did not authorize any of the lines of credit, and Bonnie did not author any of the four applications, or a tax-exempt form presented as evidence.

The Pennsylvania Tax Exemption Certificate form was issued by the state Department of Revenue, Bureau of Business Trust Fund Taxes. That’s the count that was dismissed, as Mills said he could see no intent on Berfield’s part in signing that kind of document.

Haines told police she suspected the writing on all of the documents were Berfield’s.

Officer Gregory testified she sent the documents, along with examples of Bonnie Haines’ and Beth Berfield’s handwriting, to a state police lab and the results indicated Bonnie was not the author of the signatures in question, while Berfield was capable of authoring all of them. Gregory said a technician from the lab would be available to testify to that in court if the case moves to trial.

On one of the documents, Berfield admitted authoring Bonnie’s name, telling police she accidentally signed Bonnie’s name… that it was a name, not a signature.

Gregory said a charge of theft against Berfield was dismissed because she could not prove Berfield had ever bought and sold dresses and kept the money.

Berfield’s attorney, Lance Marshall of State College, argued that even if Berfield signed her name on the documents and was not authorized to do so, the commonwealth had not proven intent to defraud the company.

“At best,” he said, “the evidence shows she was helping Foster buy dresses. It’s not unusual for businesses to order dresses and pay for them later. There’s no evidence of misuse of credit applications. You have to prove what it was she was going to do.”

Assistant District Attorney Mike Angelelli countered with: “This defendant was intending to defraud this business. Whether she succeeded or not isn’t the issue. This is an application to obtain credit to order clothing. We don’t know what she was going to do… but she was not authorized to do it. Lab results show this defendant capable of signing the applications and the tax form. Often, intent can be proven with circumstantial evidence.”