Insurance firm alleges embezzling

March 16, 1995|By TaNoah V. Sterling | TaNoah V. Sterling,Sun Staff Writer

A Pennsylvania insurance company has sued a Severna Park woman, alleging that she embezzled $60,000 from an Annapolis-based title company where she worked.

In the suit, Fidelity National Title Insurance Co. of Pennsylvania alleges that Dorinda M. Geis Hughes, a former employee of the now-defunct Central Maryland Title Co., "wrongfully endorsed checks to herself, to cash and to others for her own personal benefit" through a settlement account the company had with Maryland National Bank.

No criminal charges have been filed against Ms. Hughes, according to a spokesman for the county state's attorney's office. The civil case is scheduled to go to trial in Anne Arundel Circuit Court June 19.

According to court documents, Ms. Hughes managed the Annapolis office of the title company, which conducted real estate closings.

The suit alleges that Ms. Hughes was authorized to issue and endorse checks on the company's settlement account and that she "wrote checks for office and personal expenses."

"There was money coming in on settlements that she was handling that was not being used for what it was supposed to be used for," said James J. Gourney, attorney for the Fidelity National.

He said the title insurance company had to pay out money on the settlements when it was learned that the money was missing.

Mr. Gourney said he doesn't think any real estate transactions were canceled because of the missing funds.

Ms. Hughes, who is representing herself, wrote in a letter to the court that she "was authorized . . . from Owner/Employer for all transactions during tenure at Central Maryland Title Company."

She also asked that the case be dismissed.

A sworn statement from William A. Hackney, former owner and attorney of record for the title company, absolves Ms. Hughes. In the statement, which is in the court file, Mr. Hackney says he takes "full responsibility for this account, and the transactions of Central Maryland Title Co." Mr. Hackney said yesterday that he will be a witness in Ms. Hughes' case.

Central Maryland Title was shut down last year after the insurance company sued Mr. Hackney, alleging that he had embezzled money. A spokesman for the county state's attorney's office said no criminal charges have been filed against Mr. Hackney.

Ms. Hughes said she reported the alleged theft to the state Attorney Grievance Commission.

"It's been a horrible situation, since I did turn him in," she said yesterday.

In the case against him, Mr. Hackney signed a confessed judgment, agreeing to pay the insurance company $450,000.

Last year, the Court of Appeals disbarred him for his alleged misconduct.

The suit against Ms. Hughes seeks $60,000 in damages in separate charges of conversion, negligence and breach of fiduciary duty.

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