A former secretary and bookkeeper for a local plumbing company was sentenced today to two years in prison for stealing $152,443 from her employer.
Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Ellen M. Heller sentenced Christine M. Jankowski, 26, to 10 years in prison, suspending all but two years.
After her release from prison, Jankowski must serve five years of supervised probation and must repay the stolen money.
If she can't pay the restitution, Jankowski's probation will be extended, or she may be found in violation of her probation and ordered to serve the suspended sentence.
"Theoretically, she could be on probation for the rest of her life," said Assistant State's Attorney Gary Honick.
Jankowski, of the 7500 block of Westfield Road, entered a guilty plea last week to a charge of felony theft over $300. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 15 years.
If she had agreed to the state's offer to pay the company $50,000, the entire sentence would have been suspended, Mr. Honick said.
But Jankowski, according to defense attorney Jay S. Engerman, made no attempt to provide the $50,000 or present a counter-offer.
For six years, Jankowski worked as a secretary and bookkeeper for Ellinghaus Plumbing and Heating Co., a family-owned business in Baltimore.
That meant she had access to the company's checks and other financial records, Mr. Honick said.
By "trickery" and forgery, Jankowski was able to "fool" the owner about the purpose of the checks, Mr. Honick said.
"She took advantage of their trust in her and took advantage of her position," he said.
Ms. Jankowski's thievery lasted from October 1987 to September 1991, when she was caught, Mr. Honick said.
"By luck," Mr. Honick said, "she happened to be out sick one day, and the wife of the owner filled in for her in the office, and bank statements [with checks] came in the mail made payable to her."
Mr. Honick said the owner's wife asked her husband about the checks, and he said they were unauthorized.
After thorough analyses of financial records, the owner learned many checks had been stolen, Mr. Honick said.
Jankowski was later indicted.
Today, the company has managed to stay in business, despite the blow and the recession, Mr. Honick said.
"It really would have helped the company if she could have paid the owner [the] $50,000," he said.