2 charged with taking Lights on Bay funds Ticket-takers arrested after discrepancy noted in fund-raiser's receipts

January 06, 1998|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

State Forest and Park Service rangers have arrested two ticket-takers working at Lights on the Bay, a fund-raiser for Anne Arundel Medical Center at Sandy Point State Park, on charges of skimming money from the gate receipts.

Event organizers would not say how much money they believe was taken, but they said they believe the alleged theft may help explain lower-than expected receipts.

The two, employees of a temporary agency, were arrested Thursday night after light show organizers discovered discrepancies between the number of cars admitted and the amount of cash turned in, said Richard McIntire, spokesman for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

Morris E. Fields, 33, of the 3400 block of Brinkley Road in Temple Hills and Dawn D. Wormack, 21, of the 1800 block of Bowman Drive in Annapolis have been charged with felony theft over $300 and with running a felony theft scheme.

Both were released after a bail-review hearing Friday. A trial is scheduled in May.

It was the second time during the holiday season that employees at an area light show had been arrested on theft charges. In December, Baltimore County police arrested a cashier at the Festival of Lights show in Edgemere on charges of armed robbery and conspiracy after $7,000 was stolen there Dec. 13. The woman's son and two other men also were charged.

Rangers at Sandy Point released few details of the alleged scheme. Mary Lou Baker, a hospital spokeswoman, said the investigation would include looking at receipts from the two previous years of the show.

"Our numbers have been off this year, and we were wondering why that was," said Baker. "It was interesting that our last three nights [after the arrests] were better than last year."

Organizers cut the admission price last weekend from $12 a car to $9 in an attempt to boost at- tendance at the show, a two-mile circuit that has more than 50 moving and stationary displays. Visitors also could get a $3 discount Mondays through Thursdays with coupons from Giant Food and other locations.

The show, which cost $230,000 to operate last year, lost money its first two years, and organizers had expected it to turn a profit this year, Baker said. The money was to go to a 16-bed pediatric unit in the Rebecca M. Clatanoff Pavilion on Jennifer Road. It is unclear whether the show will make money this year, said Baker, who described the losses of $22,000 in 1996 and $58,000 in 1995 as "unrecouped funds."

But those losses were expected, Baker said, "because with any business you have to establish yourself."

Organizers had hoped to turn Lights on the Bay into a family tradition that would grow in popularity, but they have not decided whether to continue it next Christmas, Baker said.

Fields and Wormack, who worked for Contemporary Services Inc., a national special events employment agency with offices in Upper Marlboro, collected entry fees at the park gate. They tracked the number of cars by keeping half of each vehicle's ticket stub, then reported the number of vehicles to show officials each night, Baker said.

Show organizers requested the two employees because they had worked for the show in 1996 and knew the routine, said Lenny Lambert, a spokesman for Contemporary Services. He said Fields and Wormack were not regular employees of the company and worked only the light show. They are no longer employed by Contemporary Service, he said.

Pub Date: 1/06/98

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