Friday, September 6, 2013

Embezzlement Update: Former WC Employee Sentenced in Maryland

Last year, former dining services accounting specialist Wendy Sue Marker was arrested and charged with 21 counts of theft and theft scheme. It was estimated that during a 6-year period, Marker embezzled nearly $200,000 from Washington College.
Investigations began in April of 2012, when cash discrepancies became apparent in Dining Services’ accounting paperwork and led to Marker’s arrest in Oct 2012. WC Department of Public Safety initiated the investigation and contacted the Chestertown Police Department and the case was forwarded to the Kent Bureau of Investigation, a unit consisting of members of the CPD, the Rock Hall Police Department, and Maryland State Police.
“It was obviously a very complex investigation,” said Jerry Roderick, director of Public Safety. “We saw a vulnerability and knew that we had to approach this [situation] properly to avoid casting bad information.”
Roderick led the investigation within the College and was responsible for interviewing employees and working with a Certified Public Accountant to sort through the 16 boxes of evidence that “needed to be duplicated for the defense and prosecutor’s office,” an endeavor that took four months to complete.
Marker was arrested after an 8-month investigation that started in March 2012 when the College’s accounting department uncovered alleged cash inconsistencies during a routine analysis when the College prepared a budget for the next fiscal year. Specifically, when the dining hall director reviewed receipts for five venues – including the dining hall and Java George – she determined that projected revenue was not being met.
Charged with 21 counts of theft (six counts of theft, $1,000 to less than $10,000; six counts of theft more than $500; four counts of theft less than $500; three counts of conducting a theft scheme of more than $500; and one count each of conducting a theft scheme of more than $100,000 and conducting a theft scheme of $10,000 to less than $100,000), Marker was indicted on all charges by a grand jury.
The trial date was set for Aug. 16, and rather than a two-day trial, Marker entered a guilty plea to conducting a theft scheme over $100,000. In exchange for her guilty plea, Kent County Assistant State’s Attorney Hallie Salmi dismissed the remaining charges. Salmi agreed not to ask for a sentence of more than seven years of imprisonment.
“Marker accepted the deal under the condition of an Alford plea,” said Roderick, “Which means she’s basically acknowledging that the state has enough evidence to prosecute and convict her, but she’s declaring her innocence.” Marker had an opportunity during her sentencing to speak to the court and again held her claim of innocence.
After listening to a statement of facts that supported the plea, Judge Paul M. Bowman found Marker guilty.
As part of the plea agreement, Marker promised to make restitution of $10,000 to WC. The College’s insurance covered the loss; the $10,000 was what the College paid out of pocket as the deductible, claimed Salmi.
In an official email to faculty and staff, President Mitchell Reiss stated that Marker will be subject to a supervised probation for five years after her release.
James Manaro, WC’s senior vice president for finance and administration, issued the following statement to local press on June 4: “The College has put into place additional oversight and accounting procedures to prevent any such thefts in the future. We expect to recover nearly all of the stolen funds from the defendant and from our insurance coverage. We appreciate the good work of the Kent County Bureau of Investigation, the Chestertown Police Department and the Kent County State’s Attorney’s Office in bringing this case to resolution.”
Marker’s case represented the first of its kind for WC, and its impact is still being felt. “It made it very difficult for all of us at the College to deal with [the case] but I think the College did a remarkable job,” said Roderick. “The message came out early on from [President Reiss] and we were transparent about it.”
“This closes a painful chapter for the College, one that took an emotional and financial toll,” said Reiss. “[But] thanks go to our Public Safety, Business Office, and Human Resources staffs and other campus employees who spent countless hours working with local and state authorities to successfully prosecute this case.”

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