Terminated Attorney is Put on Temporary Suspension
Nichole Ashley Collins, 35, an attorney who was terminated in August from the Harrisburg-based firm Shaffer & Engle, has been accused of stealing $8,000 from an account used by her former employer to pay court reporters and filing fees. The law firm, at which Collins was employed for just over three years, reported the alleged theft the following month, in September. One of the missing files contained information on her alleged stealing and another contained passwords of named partner Jeff Engle. An unidentified sticky substance was also found on the firm’s computers, making the devices unusable. It will reportedly take thousands of dollars to repair the damage.
The saga began at the end of July 2017 when the firm’s accountant called Jeff Engle to see if their check writing policy had changed because checks made out to “CASH” were signed and cashed by Collins. After being confronted, Collins admitted she had stolen the money. She was then terminated on August 14, and was advised she was no longer permitted on the premises of the firm’s office.
In December, an attorney from the firm returned from a holiday break to discover her purse containing her credit cards was missing. One of the credit cards was used to buy more than $300 worth of sex toys. While investigating, police found that the receptionists’ email account received a message with a notification that a purchase for sex toys had been made. There was also a small black and pink camo flashlight sitting on her desk, which was later identified as belonging to Collins.
The thief attempted to use the stolen card at a Wendy’s as well after it had already been reported missing by the victim, but it was rejected and the person using it was forced to pay in cash. When officers asked the Wendy’s employee to provide a description of the suspect, the individual said the card was used by a white female with blonde hair in her mid-thirties.
A few days later officials met with a Bow Creek Financial representative who provided authorities with documentation of checks cashed along with footage of the terminated lawyer cashing checks at the bank. Collins was photographed by surveillance cameras at the institution as well as other area businesses where the alleged financial crimes occurred. Police soon discovered Collins had a string of unlawful transactions and had unlawfully entered the law firm multiple times since her termination to vandalize the property and steal private documents.
Now, the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has moved forward with temporarily suspending the attorney. The “immediate temporary suspension” is scheduled to take effect starting February 24. She has been charged with burglary, theft, forgery, receiving stolen property, access device fraud and criminal mischief. Collins is currently free on $25,000 bail pending a preliminary hearing.
The case is being handled by the state attorney general’s office because Collins is married to Dauphin County prosecutor, Joel Hogentogler. On November 20, the Attorney General’s Office accepted a conflict of interest referral.