MOUNT AIRY — A woman who has confessed to embezzling more than $160,000 from herformer workplace says she is sorry for the thefts, adding that she needed the money to help pay mounting mortgage payments and household bills.
"I know what I did was wrong. That's why I let people know what happened," said Josephine F. Davis, who Howard County Police charged Wednesday with 32 counts of felony theft and four counts of forgery. "I regret what I did. This will hurt my children."
Davis, 45, formerly the office manager of the Howard County-basedRe/Max Realty firm, wrote or altered 36 company checks in a three-year period, most of which transferred between $5,000 and $10,000 into her personal bank account.
One check, dated Sept. 13, 1988, was written for $15,000. Most of the checks were cashed containing a forgedsignature of the realty firm's owner, Norma J. Marsho.
Davis toldHoward County police detectives that she "was in a bind during periods when her husband was unemployed and (she) needed to pay on the mortgage, bills and other loans," court papers said.
But Davis' excuse of financial hardship has not lessened the blow to Marsho, who saidthe news of the embezzlement "has been like a death. She was my oldest and closest employee for seven years."
Marsho said the arrest of one of the office's most trusted members has come as a "complete shock."
"I've got to get used to functioning without my right arm," Marsho said. "There was a great deal of trust put in her. I guess I'mlearning a little bit about human nature."
While employed at Re/Max Realty, which has two Columbia offices and an Ellicott City branch, Davis was responsible for deposits and bookkeeping of the company escrow account.
On Jan. 10, Davis wrote a letter to Marsho, statingthat she had stolen approximately $166,000 from the escrow account since September 1987, court papers said.
Davis, of the 17000 block of Frederick Road, voluntarily talked to police and turned over numerous checks and deposit slips, saying that she "wanted to talk to detectives and resolve the matter once and for all."
"I'm sorry that it happened," said Davis. "We've lived in the county all our lives. I'm very upset about what my family may have to go through because of this."
Police say most of the checks contained forged signatures, while others were made payable to Davis through her unauthorized endorsement.
Davis told police that on some occasions, she had imprinted the checks with a company stamp in order to make the transaction appear more official, court papers said. Some checks were also written in erasable ink, allowing her the opportunity to change the name on the check, the records said.
Police said that in an interview, Davis claimed to have spent all of the money but was willing to repay what she had taken. However, she is without sufficient collateral to do so, court records said.
Marsho said she is hoping that insurance may cover at least part of the money that has been taken from her business in the last three years. The loss of the money will not mean having to close down the realty company, "but it definitely hurts me a lot," she said.
Davis has been released on personal recognizance. Felony theft carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in jail and a $1,000 fine; forgery is punishable by 10 years in jail and a $1,000 fine.