Woman admits stealing $134,000 from guardianship accounts

January 31, 1995|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Sun Staff Writer

A former legal secretary accepted a plea agreement in Howard Circuit Court yesterday admitting that she stole about $134,000 from accounts overseen by two Ellicott City lawyers for whom she worked between 1988 and 1993.

Daren Lynne Flather, 42, of the 10300 block of Globe Court in Ellicott City, pleaded guilty to three counts of theft for taking the money from five guardianship accounts by forging the names of the lawyers. She had been charged with 32 counts of theft, forgery and cashing forged checks.

The incidents occurred while Flather worked for Bernard Taylor and Linda Sorg Ostovitz. Mr. Taylor is now a prosecutor with the Howard County State's Attorney's Office.

On March 30, Flather could be sentenced up to 45 years in jail for the three theft counts, But the prosecution is expected to recommend a suspended prison term so she can repay the money.

"We're keying on her making substantial restitution," said Assistant State's Attorney Clarence Beall III, a Carroll County prosecutor handling the case for the Howard State's Attorney's Office.

But Mr. Beall acknowledged that prosecutors were uncertain what Flather did with all of the money. He asserted that Flather shifted some of it between the five accounts to cover up her withdrawals.

A police report filed in Circuit Court says Flather told investigators after her arrest in July 1993 that the money was used to pay bills and other expenses.

Flather also gave investigators a file for one of the guardianship accounts that was missing from the offices shared by Mr. Taylor and Ms. Ostovitz in the 8355 block of Court Ave. in Ellicott City.

Mr. Taylor and Ms. Ostovitz were appointed by Circuit Court judges as guardians of the five accounts set up to pay the living expenses for six people, some of whom were elderly or had mental illnesses.

Mr. Taylor took the case to police in July 1993 after he discovered that his signature was forged on checks that were deposited into a bank account for Flather and her husband, James Flather. Mr. Flather has not been charged.

One of the victims, Rudolph Nothdurft III of Columbia, filed a civil lawsuit against the Flathers after his account was nearly drained.

Court papers say Mr. Nothdurft's account totaled $62,584 in June 1989, but $62,003 was withdrawn from the account by April 1991.

Mr. Nothdurft, whose lawsuit was filed by a second guardian, wants the court to order the Flathers to pay back his money plus $250,000 in damages, according to the suit.

Mr. Nothdurft also is seeking damages from Mr. Taylor and Commercial and Farmers Bank, an Ellicott City bank that held his account. The suit charges that Mr. Taylor and the bank should have discovered discrepancies in his account quickly.

Mr. Taylor and the bank also have filed claims against the Flathers, seeking damages and repayment of Mr. Nothdurft's money.

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