Pittsburgh Sports Authority official accused of embezzling $320K from former employer

July 24, 2019
Media by Bob Bauder and Tony Larussa

An official with the Sports and Exhibition Authority of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County who previously worked as an accounting supervisor for a Forest Hills insurance company has been charged with stealing more than $300,000 from the firm, according to the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office.

Sharon J. Mink, 43, of Plum is accused of embezzling more than $319,000 from Forest Hills-based Research Underwriters to pay for cruises, airline tickets, hotels and merchandise from Louis Vuitton, Coach, Gucci and Tiffany, according to the district attorney’s office.

Mink surrendered to detectives Tuesday and was released on a non-monetary bond. She faces a Sept. 4 preliminary hearing on nine counts of forgery and one count each of theft and receiving stolen property. Mink could not be reached for comment.

Mink is the SEA’s controller. The SEA has suspended her without pay, according to her attorney, Phil DiLucente.

“At this time, it is premature to comment on the allegations, but I can tell you she is perplexed by these charges, DiLucente said in a statement.

SEA Executive Director Mary Conturo said in a statement that she became aware of the charges Wednesday and confirmed Mink’s suspension without pay.

“While our financial operations require several sign offs to ensure the integrity of our process, an investigation will be conducted with the help of the certified public accounting firm, Maher Duessel, to confirm that our financial processes and internal controls performed as intended and were not compromised,” Conturo said in the statement.

State Sen. Wayne Fontana, D-Brookline, who chairs the board of directors, said he supports an audit of authority finances.

“We’re confident that everything’s OK, but you never know, and we want to be sure,” he said, adding that he never met Mink.

The SEA is controlled by the city and county. The authority owns and oversees Heinz Field, PNC Park, PPG Paints Arena and the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

“The city will review the charges with Sen. Fontana and other SEA leadership and support an audit making sure authority finances are protected,” said Tim McNulty, spokesman for Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto.

Mink was hired as an accountant in 2004 at Research Underwriters, on Greensburg Pike, which provides insurance services for transportation companies, according to a criminal complaint. She became the company’s controller in late 2007 and was responsible for accounting, payroll, 401k accounts and paying bills. A woman who answered the phone Wednesday at Research Underwriters said the firm had no comment.

The SEA hired her in February 2017, according to a biography on the agency’s website. Her responsibilities included “the production of financial reports, accounts payable, accounts receivable, cash management, banking, maintaining systems for accurately preserving accounting records, and developing a comprehensive set of controls and budgets designed to ensure the reported results comply with generally accepted accounting principles.”

Following Mink’s resignation from Research Underwriters in February 2017, company officials reviewed financial records and found that between December 2013 and March 2017, 59 checks totaling more than $311,000 allegedly were forged by Mink to pay for purchases she made, according to the complaint. The financial review also found more than $8,000 in fraudulent checks Mink allegedly used to make payments on her credit card.

Investigators say Mink tried to hide the thefts by listing legitimate vendors when the payments were entered in the company’s accounting management software.