Browne’s campaign treasurer charged
Nearly $600,000 taken since 2007 state’s attorney general alleges
State Sen. Pat Browne’s longtime campaign treasurer has been charged with stealing nearly $600,000 from the senator’s campaign fund.
Michael P. Ellwood, 55, of Salisbury Township, was arraigned Tuesday on felony counts of theft and receiving stolen property and more than 100 misdemeanor counts of campaign violations.
According to a criminal complaint, Ellwood is accused of writing 74 checks totaling $578,050 from the Citizens for Patrick Browne campaign fund to his business between May 2007 and June 2018. The state attorney general’s office alleges Ellwood deposited the money into his business bank account and used it to pay bills and himself.
The checks, made out to Ellwood & Company, P.C., ranged from $5,000 to as much as $25,000. At least one check was written each year, and as many as 13 checks were written in 2014, totaling $129,356, according to court documents. Browne was running for reelection that year against Democrat Walt Felton.
In an attempt to return some of the money, Ellwood allegedly made 29 deposits totaling $308,050 into Browne’s campaign fund and failed to record the transactions on campaign finance forms, court documents state. Twenty-nine misdemeanor campaign violations were filed against Ellwood as a result.
Browne and his staff told investigators that Ellwood was not authorized to write himself checks from the campaign fund other than a fee,
ranging from $687 to $3,775, for his services as treasurer.
In a prepared statement, Browne said he was “devastated” to learn that Ellwood, whom he has known for most of his life, was accused to misappropriating funds. Ellwood and Browne attended Allentown Central Catholic High School together and both played on the basketball team, according to published reports.
Browne said he alerted the attorney general’s office and has been cooperating with the investigation.
“I have come to learn that his actions were perpetuated by substantial mental challenges that escalated over time,” Browne said of Ellwood. “Notwithstanding that fact, they still involved serious violations of campaign finance laws and needed to be dealt with appropriately.”
Ellwood could not be reached for comment.
According to an affidavit filed in court:
Ellwood told Browne in November that he “borrowed” $250,000 from the account. A forensic audit revealed the full amount removed as well as the money Ellwood returned. Aware that charges against him were pending, Ellwood repaid Browne’s campaign fund a $270,000 balance.
Ellwood used the money, the attorney general’s office says, to pay rent, child support, taxes, utilities, credit cards and loans, and wrote checks to himself for nearly $40,000.
Ellwood was arraigned before District Judge Michael D’Amore in Allentown. He was released after posting $25,000 bail, and is scheduled to appear in Lehigh County Court on Nov. 5.
Ellwood operates an accounting practice in East Allentown, but he hasn’t been licensed as a certified public accountant since 2004, according to state records.