Stein Pleads Guilty to Rec League Thefts

James Stein is facing two-to-20 years in prison for cashing unauthorized checks from bank accounts belonging to his former wife, a friend and the Wheeling High School Summer League administered through the City of Wheeling Recreation Department.

Stein, 53, formerly of 14 Pinewood Drive, Wheeling, pleaded guilty to two counts of a 46-count indictment charging his with uttering from the three accounts.

At Thursday’s hearing, assistant prosecutor Shawn Turak said Stein stole several checks totaling $330 from his former wife while she was recuperating from major surgery; $1,935 from Tom Bechtel and $3,960 from the Wheeling High School Summer League administered by Bechtel, who is director of the Wheeling Recreation Department.

The terms of the plea agreement between Turak and defense attorney Ted Tsoras asks the court to accept the plea as presented but also allow the state and defense separate arguments during sentencing. Tsoras will ask the one-to-10 year sentences be served concurrently, while Turak will want them to be consecutive.

In addition to jail time, Circuit Judge James Mazzone ordered Stein to make financial restitution to the victims. Mazzone scheduled a sentencing hearing for July 9.

Bechtel said the money taken did not come from city funds, but from a separate account administered by the Recreation Department.

He said Stein worked as a referee at events in the High School Summer League and he received authorized payment for the times he served.

“He visited my home and office several times,” Bechtel said. “I considered him a friend.”

He said Stein apparently took the checks out of his desk at the Recreation Department.

“I normally write four or five check per month out of my personal checking account,” he said. “As soon as saw the statement with the additional checks cashed, I reported it to the bank.”