County Worker Guilty

News in brief

March 29, 1992

Lavida B. Smith, a Howard County Finance Department employee, has pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Baltimore to one count of bankfraud in a check-kiting scheme in which she floated more than $93,000 in bad checks during a five-year period.

U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis scheduled sentencing for June 15 after the guilty plea was entered Wednesday. Smith, 40, of Columbia, faces a jail term of 10 to 16 months under federal sentencing guidelines.

Smith is on leave without pay from the Howard Finance Department.County Executive Charles I. Ecker said he would consult county lawyers before deciding whether she would be allowed to keep her job. No county money was involved in the scheme.

Smith maintained checking accounts at a Citizens Bank of Maryland branch in Ellicott City and aBank of Baltimore branch in Columbia, making daily trips to both, according to a statement prepared by Assistant U.S. Attorney Dale Kelberman.

She obtained cash, money orders and treasurer's checks from Citizens Bank in exchange for checks drawn on checks from a Bank of Baltimore account, the statement said. She deposited some of those items back into the Bank of Baltimore before those checks arrived.

The scheme escalated, the prosecutor said, and by March 1990, she was making deposits of more than $80,000 a day. Citizens Bank became awareof a problem with Smith's account when the computer at Bank of Baltimore shut down for several hours and her checks were returned unpaid.

Both banks then reviewed their records and discovered the check-kiting scheme.

JURY SELECTION BEGINS

Jury selection begins tomorrowin the trial of a former Baltimore City police officer charged with first-degree murder and child abuse in the death of his infant son.

Carl William Morris Jr., 34, of the 6400 block of Barchink Place inColumbia, is charged in the Jan. 21, 1991 beating death of his 19-month-old son Christopher.

He was arrested Jan. 25 after a police investigation into Christopher's death.

Morris, who called emergencyrescue workers to his home, said that his son had fallen down the stairs and a carpet cleaner had fallen on top of him, police said. The child was not breathing when rescue workers arrived at the home.

Doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital became suspicious when they found massive internal injuries in the child's abdomen as well as bruises to other parts of the infant's body and face, police said.

An autopsyconducted by the state medical examiner found "multiple blunt force trauma" to the child's abdomen, and the death was ruled a homicide.

Morris had been suspended from the Baltimore police force without pay after being arrested in Prince George's County on assault and handgun charges in a domestic incident. Those charges are still pending.

The trial is expected to conclude at the end of the week.

SPEED LIMIT LOWERED

Motorists will have to slow down on Route 103 after mid-April because of the efforts of five eighth-graders from Ellicott Mills Middle School.

The students convinced State Highway Administration officials to lower the speed limit on Route 103 between U.S. 29and Route 104 from 45 to 40 mph. SHA also plans to install flashing lights at the east and west approaches to the school.

Students Craig Gajewski, Robert Goble, Ashish Desai, Tony Mansolillo and Paul Mintz chose traffic congestion on Route 103 as their project this year in teacher Judith Cephas' gifted and talented class.

The SHA turneddown the students' requests for a traffic signal at the school entrance and a 30 or 35 mph speed limit, but agreed that flashing lights and a 5 mph reduction in the speed limit were warranted.

"They madea nice presentation for needed safety improvements," said Gene R. Straub, SHA district traffic engineer. He and District Engineer DouglasR. Rose met with the students in February to discuss SHA criteria for traffic safety measures and to see a video the students had made ofRoute 103 traffic.

Straub said the highway officials decided a traffic signal is not needed because the planned Long Gate Parkway, which will intersect with Route 103 west of the school, will have a traffic signal. That light will create gaps in traffic that will ease turns for buses from the driveway onto Route 103, he said. Long Gate Parkway is expected to be constructed in about a year.

The traffic engineer said the lower speed limits should be posted in the next few weeks. The SHA plans to install the flashing lights before the 1992-1993 school year starts.

FINALISTS ANNOUNCED

National Merit scholarship finalists in county schools this year are:

Craig K. Chang, Supriya Goyal, Jennifer L. Kilgore, Jean Kim, John F. Walter III of Atholton; Jane C. Chen, Peter T. DeVore, Burke A. Drane, Daniel S. Hsu, Ellen M. Lonnquist, Ming Chen Shih, Jennifer Sun of Centennial; GerardJ. Hogan of Glenelg; David Salkeld of Hammond; Ashwin Dharmadhikari,Catherine Thomas, Brian Wellington, Eric Wheeler of Howard; John M. MacDonald, Joe D. Salinas, Biswajit Sinha, Kim E. Williams of OaklandMills; Joseph Bank, Daniel Berland, Philip Olinger, Elaine Thomas and David Vanecho of Wilde Lake.

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