Ex-bookkeeper is accused of stealing from 2 groups Alleged thefts affected 4-H, bus organizations

August 02, 1996|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

The former bookkeeper for the Harford County 4-H Fair and the county's School Bus Contractors Association has been arrested and charged with stealing funds from both organizations, the state's attorney's office said yesterday.

Debra C. Nelson, 40, of the 500 block of Chestnut Hill Road in Forest Hill was arrested Wednesday morning on two counts of theft of more than $300, said Sgt. Edward Hopkins, spokesman for the Harford County Sheriff's Department.

She was released on $1,000 bail, police said.

Reached at her home yesterday, Nelson declined to comment on the charges.

State's Attorney Joseph I. Cassilly said Nelson was indicted after a Sheriff's Department investigation into complaints that money was missing from the 4-H Fair.

"That complaint led to an audit, and that led to an investigation into the records at the school bus association," Cassilly said. "We have audits from the school bus contractors that show the removal of over $50,000."

The indictment alleges that money was stolen from the association -- a group of about 53 bus contractors -- from September 1994 to October 1995.

The second charge accuses Nelson of stealing money from the 4-H division of the Harford County Farm Fair from July 1993 to November 1995.

In both cases, some of the missing money was replaced, Cassilly said. Officials at the county School Bus Contractors Association declined to comment on the case.

Cynthia Warner, faculty assistant with the 4-H Clubs, said the 4-H competition at the fair attracts 500 to 600 young entrants annually.

Participants are paid a premium for each entry at the fair, which is held in Bel Air at the Equestrian Center, she said.

"The money she was dealing with was the money we received from the State Department of Agriculture through the Maryland State Fair," Warner said. "It's used for the premiums for the kids and averages around $9,000."

Nelson's job included mailing checks to participants after the fair, Warner said. Officials were alerted after checks to participants were delayed and the bank sent a notice of insufficient funds, she said.

If convicted, Nelson could be sentenced to 15 years in prison and fined $10,000 for each count, the state's attorney said.

Pub Date: 8/02/96

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