Arundel judge dismisses theft, fraud charges against police officer

September 15, 1992|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Staff Writer

Charges were dismissed yesterday against a county police officer accused of falsely reporting the theft of his pickup truck and filing a fraudulent insurance claim.

Officer Gary Thorn, 28, of Glen Burnie had a charge of felony theft and two counts of filing false insurance claims dismissed yesterday before Judge Raymond G. Thieme Jr.

He still faces a Baltimore County charge of filing a false police report.

Fred Paone, assistant state's attorney for Anne Arundel County, said that he dismissed the charges because a key witness, the defendant's uncle, Roger L. Thorn of Tunnelton, W.Va., switched his account of the case.

According to charging documents, Officer Thorn reported his 1988 Ford Ranger stolen from the Westview Mall parking lot Sept. 29, 1991, and filed a claim for it with Nationwide Insurance Co. a few days later.

According to records, Officer Thorn received a series of three checks from Nationwide in November totaling $10,800. Along with the truck, the claim included the loss of some Wilson golf clubs and some women's clothing in the

truck, which had a combined value of $720.

But the court records show that on Nov. 1, the truck was sold for $500 by the officer's uncle to Martin E. Plum of Concord Church Road in Newburg, W.Va.

Shortly after Mr. Plum bought the truck for parts, he heard rumors that it had been stolen, and noticed that its vehicle identification numbers had been badly damaged, Mr. Paone said.

Mr. Plum reported the suspected theft to the Preston County (W.Va.) Sheriff's Department, which traced the truck to the stolen vehicle report filed by Officer Thorn, who has been a police officer for six years.

A search of Officer Thorn's house also turned up a set of Wilson golf clubs that matched the type reported to the insurance company as stolen.

Mr. Paone said that early in the investigation, Roger Thorn told authorities that his nephew came to West Virginia and instructed him to sell the truck for $500. But the uncle eventually recanted, saying that he stole the truck himself from the Westview Mall.

Roger Thorn faces theft charges in Preston County, and Officer Thorn still faces charges of filing a false police report with Baltimore County police, according to the officer's lawyer.

"I don't think it would be appropriate for me to make any statements with Roger Thorn facing charges possibly in Baltimore County and in West Virginia as well," said Michael Grossfeld, the officer's attorney.

He said that Roger Thorn was having money problems at the time of the incident, and that he came forward a month ago to admit that he stole the truck.

But he said that investigators never bothered to question Mr. Thorn's veracity when they charged his client, and that they didn't act quickly on his confession when it came.

"From the start, this investigation has been nothing but a witch hunt, the likes of which the people of Salem would've been proud of," Mr. Grossfeld said.

He said that the golf clubs found by police investigators at the officer's house were purchased after the truck theft -- and that he could produce receipts and testimony from sales clerks to prove it.

"My feeling is from the start they felt they had a dirty cop and they wanted to believe they had one, no matter what," he said. "But they weren't able to make it stick because my client is not a dirty cop."

Officer Thorn was suspended without pay April 20.

"It's been a very long summer for him," he said.

Mr. Grossfeld said that Officer Thorn is now waiting to see if his status with the department will change in the next few days.

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