The Cranberry Eagle
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Article published January 2, 2013

Woman sentenced to prison
She falsified payments to herself, husband

Kim Paskorz
Butler Eagle

A Connoquenessing woman who told her employer she was dying of cancer as she falsified thousands of dollars in overtime payments to herself and her husband will spend time in prison.

Butler County Judge William Shaffer on Thursday sentenced Michele Ann Geyer-Brown, 47, of Connoquenessing Township to serve 11 to 23 months in prison followed by 7 years’ probation for charges in two related cases.
In one case, the state attorney general’s office had alleged that Geyer-Brown, the former office manager of Festa Radon Technologies in Cranberry Township, falsified more than $20,000 in overtime payments to herself and 48-year-old Roy Brown. In that case, Geyer-Brown pleaded guilty to theft by deception, conspiracy, computer trespassing and theft by unlawful taking.
In the second case, Geyer-Brown pleaded guilty to perjury and false swearing for lying to state unemployment compensation officials about the embezzlement as well as her medical diagnosis and treatment.
According to court records, Geyer-Brown in 2009 told her employer, a small family-owned company, that she’d been diagnosed with cancer. While the disease was killing her, she reportedly claimed the weekly chemotherapy treatments were leaving her too weak to fulfill her job duties.
So moved by the plight of their trusted office manager of three years, father and son Daniel and Daryl Festa agreed to continue paying Geyer-Brown her full $24,960 annual salary even though she was working only one day a week. And they gave Geyer-Brown’s husband, also an employee, paid time off to drive his wife to weekly chemotherapy appointments.
Court records say Geyer-Brown, who sometimes vomited while at her work station, for five months ending in January 2010 continued to complete one task for the company: the payroll she allegedly used to overcompensate herself and Roy Brown with about $25,000.
Court records say the money issues came to the surface in 2010, when Festa hired another woman to help Geyer-Brown with her duties. That employee noted that Geyer-Brown’s husband was being paid overtime for hours he did not work.
Prosecutors have said after the thefts came to light, a search of Geyer-Brown’s medical records turned up no cancer. Court records say Geyer-Brown, who also uses the name Michele Ann Davidson, has never been diagnosed or treated for any form of cancer.
In addition to her employers and their clients, court records say Geyer-Brown lied about the diagnosis and treatment when applying for disability payments to an insurance company as well as while under oath to state labor and industry officials.
And, the records indicate, Geyer-Brown also lied to other medical providers. According to court records, in 2009 she told a doctor at Allegheny General Hospital that she had brain cancer. In 2000, she told another doctor she had a gynecological cancer.
Another doctor in 2000 reported that Geyer-Brown told her she had throat and ovarian cancer as well as a brain cyst. In 2002, she told an emergency room doctor she had ovarian, esophageal and thyroid cancer.
Although Geyer-Brown never was diagnosed with cancer, one doctor did give her a different, related diagnosis: Munchhausen syndrome, a psychiatric disorder in which people feignor exaggerate illness for attention or sympathy.
In court, Geyer-Brown’s defense attorney, Patrick Casey, noted that his client has some physical health issues as well as the specter of health issues that could be connected to the Munchhausen syndrome diagnosis. Casey stressed that he was noting these issues as “more of an explanation than an excuse.”
Geyer-Brown did not comment.
Geyer-Brown, who is responsible for $24,344 in restitution, is eligible for work release while she is in prison. And court officials have said since her arrest she got a new job in the clerical field.
Roy Brown, who pleaded guilty to misdemeanor theft and conspiracy, was sentenced to serve six months’ house arrest and five years’ probation. His attorney, Christopher Capozzi of Cranberry, could not be reached for comment.