A retired, decorated Navy captain was sentenced yesterday to house arrest and probation while he finishes repaying more than $300,000 he embezzled from the Annapolis company that trusted him as its chief financial officer.
Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Ronald A. Silkworth sentenced Victor A. Karcher, 60, of the 300 block of Martins Cove Road, outside Annapolis, to a year of house arrest, five years on probation and 300 hours of community service. Silkworth also fined Karcher $1,000 and ordered him to write an apology and repay the nearly $120,000 remaining of the $353,000 he stole from Tritech Field Engineering.
The maximum sentence was 15 years. Karcher was convicted of theft in July.
Silkworth said he will impose on Karcher the three-year prison term he suspended yesterday if the 1961 Naval Academy graduate doesn't make good on restitution or other parts of his probation.
"I don't expect that I will see you back here. I really don't. But don't mistake my resolve that you will see the inside of a jail cell if you fail to meet the terms of probation," Silkworth said.
With more than a dozen friends and relatives watching, Karcher apologized in court for stealing the funds from 1994 to 1997. Defense lawyer Peter S. O'Neill said Karcher, who retired from the Navy in 1989 after 28 years, was under stress.
"He had the pressure of no longer being in the military and new life challenges. And he was a combat veteran in Vietnam," O'Neill said later. He said Karcher would not comment.
The money went to what Deputy State's Attorney William D. Roessler called "upgrading his lifestyle." Karcher used the money to pay for his home, cars, vacations and perhaps his daughter's wedding, Roessler said.
Some lavish spending was noticed by friends, some of whom wrote to the court that Karcher's spending increased sharply in 1995 or 1996.
In supportive letters to the court, some who knew him from Episcopal Church activities said he and they prayed that God would forgive him.
Mark Circo, Tritech's owner, left the courtroom shaking his head in disappointment over the reluctance of judges to imprison white-collar thieves.
"I was expecting some form of incarceration," Circo said. "It just seems it is very hard to find justice anymore."
The theft devastated the biomedical equipment service company, which had 17 employees several years ago and now has 12. Circo has filed a civil lawsuit against Karcher. Circo and his wife, Eileen, said Karcher got what amounted to a hefty no-interest loan with scant penalties while other people, including employees, suffered.
Circo noticed problems with the company's books and hired an auditor in 1996. The audit turned up company checks to pay off Karcher's credit cards and similar payments. He was fired in May 1997.
Pub Date: 1/13/99