Darrin accused in civil petition Dorsey's Search group alleges she embezzled

Wants her held liable

Police also investigate ex-village manager

July 21, 1998|By Dana Hedgpeth | Dana Hedgpeth,SUN STAFF Staff writer Caitlin Francke contributed to this article.

The Dorsey's Search Community Association has alleged in court papers that former village manager Anne S. Darrin embezzled $121,400 from the center she ran for 10 years.

A civil petition filed last week in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Baltimore represents the first public statement by Columbia officials about the extent of the suspected misappropriation of funds.

Darrin, 46, allegedly used village center funds to pay personal credit card bills, maintain her son's troubled cyber cafe in Baltimore and repay a personal loan, according to the petition, which confirms earlier reports in The Sun. Columbia officials also allege that her husband, John C. Darrin, 51, aided in the suspected embezzlement.

Authorities have said Anne Darrin is under criminal investigation by Howard County police. It could not be determined yesterday whether her husband also was being investigated. The couple and their attorney did not respond to repeated phone calls.

The Darrins filed for personal bankruptcy in February -- the day after she resigned as village manager and a week before her house on Chariots Flight Way was to be auctioned. The petition asks a judge to hold the Darrins liable for debts to the Columbia Association because she allegedly committed fraud while serving as the village manager.

The petition alleges that a CA audit found that Darrin, who was solely responsible for maintaining the center's $300,000 annual budget, wrote checks totaling more than $38,000 to her husband, her son, Joshua, and Obsidian LLC, the company that owns The Strand, a cyber cafe in Baltimore. The Strand filed for bankruptcy last July.

Darrin also allegedly:

Took out two American Express credit cards in the name of the Columbia Association and charged more than $35,000 in purchases for herself, John Darrin and the company that owns The Strand.

Wrote checks to herself or to cash for more than $13,000, and paid more than $31,000 on a personal Visa credit card and $232 on a Macy's credit card.

Bought a $337 vacuum and spent $2,267 on four cellular phones and calls for her family and the manager at The Strand.

Concealed payments from village funds by omitting them from records -- specifically the association's checkbook register -- and submitted false paperwork with her quarterly financial statements to the board, saying they had been reviewed by an accountant, which they had not.

The petition alleges that John Darrin posed as a CA employee when he took out a contract for the cellular phones.

Members of the Dorsey's Search Village Board, which oversees the manager, became suspicious last year when Darrin was unable to account for money spent and explain basic accounting principles.

The CA oversees Columbia and provides about $2 million a year to its 10 village centers. The Dorsey's Search Village Center receives about $120,000 a year from the CA.

The allegations against Darrin prompted the association to launch a $40,000 audit of its nine other villages. It was the first audit of any village in the past five years.

Since the audit, Dorsey's Search has implemented tighter spending practices. The board is considering requiring the signature of the board chairman for any purchases more than $500 and the approval of the board for purchases more than $1,000. The board may also hire a bookkeeper.

"One of the things that really killed us was there were no records," said Bob Conors, the Dorsey's Search Village Board chairman. "You have to stay up with what's going on so that bad things don't happen."

Pub Date: 7/21/98

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