Ex-tourism aide admits forging $11,000 in checks

July 24, 1996|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

The former assistant to the Howard County Tourism Council's executive director admitted this week she forged more than $11,000 in council checks -- writing them out to herself and then cashing them.

Shannon Shirley pleaded guilty in Howard County Circuit Court Monday to uttering a false document. Court records say she fraudulently signed the names of the council treasurer and president on the checks.

She was given an 18-month suspended sentence and five years' probation and was ordered to repay the stolen funds.

The Ellicott City resident worked for the council for about 18 months. Karen Justice, the council's executive director, said Shirley worked as her assistant before Shirley was fired in May 1995.

Justice said the case has prompted procedural changes within the office, but she declined to elaborate. She said she writes all checks personally.

"The procedures were sufficient if you had honest employees," Justice said. "It's disheartening but necessary, I suppose, to set up procedures so you don't get hurt."

According to charging documents, Shirley wrote 20 company checks to herself and forged the signatures of the council officials in the spring of 1995 and fall of 1994.

Shirley told officials at Commercial and Farmers Bank in Ellicott City that some of the checks were for payroll. But bank officials became concerned when they realized the payroll came from a different account. After checking the signatures, they alerted the tourism council, charging documents say.

Justice told police she believed that Shirley was hiding the returned checks from her so she would not find out, the documents say.

Shirley was first charged with forgery of 13 checks in May 1995, but a later audit uncovered seven additional checks she had cashed. Some of the checks were from a supply that had been stored.

Pub Date: 7/24/96

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