Official charged in check scheme Security supervisor alleged to have cashed $15,000 improperly

November 25, 1996|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Erin Texeira contributed to this article.

The head of street security for a new special taxing district in midtown Baltimore has been charged with felony theft in the alleged improper cashing of checks worth a total of $15,000, authorities said yesterday.

Melvin A. Wilson, a former city police officer who resigned two years ago, would face up to 15 years in prison and a $1,000 fine if convicted of the charge, police spokesman Samuel J. Ringgold Jr. said.

Wilson, 36, was fired from his $30,000-a-year job as head of the 10-person security force of the Midtown Community Benefits District on Nov. 15, two days after a bookkeeper discovered in reviewing a bank statement that unauthorized checks made out to Wilson had been cashed, according to Beverly Fuller, the organization's director.

"We're all in shock on this," Fuller said Saturday. "We've done a lot of good work and worked so hard. I don't want that jeopardized in any way. That's my biggest concern," she added.

Efforts to reach Wilson, who began his job in May, were unsuccessful.

The Midtown Community Benefits District is the newest of three special taxing districts in Baltimore that levy surcharges on property owners, enabling them to provide security patrols and street-cleaning services beyond those provided by the city. The other districts are in the downtown business section and in Charles Village.

Covering the communities of Bolton Hill, Madison Park, Mount Vernon-Belvedere and parts of Charles North, the midtown district was approved by residents in a special referendum a year ago and began operating in July.

It has an annual operating budget of $650,000 -- of which $550,000 comes from a special property tax surcharge of 30 cents per $100 of assessed value. That surcharge, which works out to about $210 a year for the average homeowner and about twice that for the average business owner, is on top of the city's property tax of $5.85 per $100 assessed value.

In addition to 10 security officers, the money pays for six street cleaners and a paid director.

Wilson had been a police officer for about 13 years, according to Fuller. Police, who could not gain access to personnel records, could not confirm that, Ringgold said.

Fuller said Wilson had no check-writing authority in his job. She said all checks written on the account of the Midtown district require two signatures, and that signatures on the checks made out to Wilson apparently were forged.

"We feel we had the appropriate safeguards in place," she said.

Wilson was fired by the Midtown district board's president, Frederick Bierer, on Nov. 15, a decision affirmed by Midtown's board of directors Friday, she said.

Fuller said the organization hopes to be reimbursed for the money by its bank, which she declined to identify.

Pub Date: 11/25/96

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