Ex-state water official charged with stealing

June 09, 1994|By Marcia Myers | Marcia Myers,Sun Staff Writer

A former fiscal officer in the state department of the environment was charged today with stealing more than $1.2 million from the agency's water-quality unit.

Rufus Ukaegbu, 35, of St. George's Avenue in the city, was charged in Baltimore Circuit Court with four counts of felony theft.

Mr. Ukaegbu, the former chief fiscal officer for the Maryland Department of the Environment's Water Quality Financing Administration, was suspended without pay last fall when the department and the attorney general's office began its investigation.

Efforts to reach Mr. Ukaegbu this morning were unsuccessful.

Prosecutors said that between December 1991 and June 1992 Mr. Ukaegbu filed phony documents requesting payments to fictitious companies.

About $1.2 million was sent to bank accounts and addresses controlled by Mr. Ukaegbu, prosecutors said.

His arraignment is set for July 12. If convicted, Mr. Ukaegbu faces up to 60 years in prison, a $4,000 fine and restitution of the money taken.

He also has been charged in federal court with money laundering for what prosecutors contend was his manipulation of the funds. He could receive up to 20 years in prison and more than $2 million in fines if convicted on those charges.

Also working on the investigation were the FBI, Maryland State Police, the U.S. Attorney's office, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Department of the Environment requested the investigation after discovering irregularities in the WQFA's financial records.

The administration helps pay for upgrading municipal sewage treatment and drinking water systems throughout the state.

Suspicions that the money had been stolen forced the agency to cancel the sale of $90 million in bonds that would have helped the city, Baltimore County and eight other localities clean up pollution and ensure safe drinking water.

In recent years, the agency has been severely criticized for financial troubles, including its handling of federal grants, overpayments to private contractors, sloppy record keeping and poor financial controls that could mask "unauthorized payments."

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