Ex Delco councilman charged with alleged $3M theft

James Bryan allegedly stole nearly $3 million in cash and copper wire from his workplace.

  • Bryan faces multiple theft offenses and 10 counts of forgery.
  • He admitted the thefts to the police and claimed he had a gambling problem.

A former Collingdale councilman was charged Wednesday with allegedly stealing nearly $3 million in cash and copper wire from his workplace to feed his gambling addiction.

James Bryan, 45, faces multiple theft offenses and 10 counts of forgery.

Executives with Bryan’s former employer, Wescott Electric, first contacted detectives in June after coming across a bogus packing slip and invoice for copper wire that the foreman of the corresponding work project said was not needed, according to an affidavit.

The company’s purchasing agent said she had been receiving similar invoices for some time. All the dubious invoices came without a purchasing order and all were submitted by project manager Bryan, prosecutors said.

Wescott launched an investigation and found checks had been made out to two legitimate businesses for supplies on non-existent jobs. All the checks were cashed at Imperial Check Cashing in Philadelphia.

The company further found fraudulent invoices had been made up for Christa Supply, a business owned by Bryan and his ex-wife. Bryan would, as he left work each day, allegedly take the outgoing mail with the checks inside and cash them.

Wescott executives confronted Bryan, who police said admitted to the thefts and claimed he had a gambling problem. 

Bryan allegedly told officers Aug. 7 he began gambling five to six years before and would go to Harrah's Casino in Chester two to three times weekly, spending $1,000 to $2,000 each visit. Investigators said Bryan would also play the lottery and bet on various sports games. 

According to the affidavit, Bryan told officials he started the thefts by writing fraudulent invoices for jobs that didn’t exist. After the purchasing agent wrote checks for each invoice, Bryan would steal them from the outgoing mail and cash them at Imperial because, “he had heard they did not  require ID to cash checks,” the affidavit states.

Bryan two years ago began creating fake purchasing orders to Colonial Electric in Glenolden for bare copper wire. Authorities said he would pick up the wire and immediately take it to Atlas Recycling in Lansdowne, where he would sell it for scrap. Bryan said he went to Atlas at least once a week and made $1,000 to $2,000 each trip, according to police.

Further investigation turned up Wescott invoices dating back to 2003 containing checks Bryan allegedly cashed at Imperial. Prosecutors estimated Bryan over the course of 11 years stole $2,919,361 from the business. About $736,723 of that was in the form of copper wire.

"The defendant knowingly and fraudulently stole from his employer, depositing hundreds of thousands of dollars into his personal accounts,” Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan said in a statement. “He took advantage of his position of authority and employer’s trust, and he will be held accountable for his actions."

Bryan was in May elected to the Collingdale Borough Council and served as vice president before inexplicably resigning Oct. 7. according to The Delaware County Daily Times. He was slated to be arraigned on the charges Wednesday and was next due in court Feb. 12 for a preliminary hearing. Investigators said Bryan is receiving treatment for his gambling addiction.


Contact Alex Wigglesworth at 215-854-2305 or awigglesworth@philly.com. Follow @phila_lex on Twitter.

Contact the Breaking News Desk at 215-854-2443; BreakingNewsDesk@philly.com. Follow @phillynews on Twitter.