Community college official accused in theft of $22,000

Foundation director also a vice chancellor in Balto. County system

January 27, 2000|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF

A top official of the Community College of Baltimore County has been accused of stealing $22,000 from a fund that provides student scholarships and faculty grants, police said yesterday.

Louis J. Hammen Jr., 51, executive director of Dundalk Community College Foundation Inc., was arrested Jan. 14 by detectives from the county police fraud unit, who were called in to examine reports of financial irregularities involving credit cards and the foundation's bank account, police said.

Hammen, who also is a vice chancellor for institutional advancement at CCBC, was placed on unpaid leave from both jobs after being charged with three counts of forgery and one count of theft, police said.

Community college officials called police after they were alerted by a foundation employee at the Dundalk campus. CCBC is Maryland's largest community college system, with campuses in Dundalk, Essex and Catonsville.

Hammen is accused of writing four checks against the foundation account to companies that did not exist and cashing them, said Cpl. Vickie Warehime, a county police spokeswoman. He also is accused of illegally using two foundation credit cards, she said. Police would not say what the cards were used for.

The foundation employee who became suspicious told police the checkbook used by Hammen was kept in a locked desk at Dundalk, accessible only to him and a few others.

Officials said Steven Kirchner, vice chancellor for finance and administration, conducted an in-house inquiry of the Dundalk foundation's account.

Kirchner could not locate receipts for Hammen's use of the credit cards or documentation connected with his writing of the four checks, police said. Neither police nor CCBC officials would provide a breakdown of the checks or the credit card charges.

When Hammen was initially confronted with the allegations by a foundation worker, he said, "Don't worry about it," according to police.

He attempted to repay some of the money last month, but by then, officials wanted the criminal investigation to continue, police said.

Attempts to reach Hammen, a Columbia resident, were unsuccessful yesterday.

Hammen was hired to oversee the Dundalk foundation in January 1998, said Mary DeLuca, a system spokeswoman. His annual salary of $54,000 was "bumped up" after he assumed the additional job as systemwide director of institutional advancement, working at the Catonsville campus, she said.

One administration staffer said Hammen was "well-liked."

"He could be quite charming," said the administrator, who asked not to be identified. "Then one day he just disappeared. We all wondered what happened to him."

Hammen began working at the Dundalk campus in 1981 as a mid-level administrator doing fund-raising work. He left in the mid-1990s to become a fund-raiser for Daytona Beach Community College before returning to the Baltimore area about three years ago.

A spokeswoman at the Florida college said yesterday, "Lou left here well-liked, no problems."

Higher education foundations offer scholarships to needy or gifted students and fund academic projects directed by faculty members.

At Dundalk, foundation assets are accumulated through events such as golf tournaments, fund-raising dinners and alumni gifts. Hammen's job was to plan such events and oversee the foundation's bank account.

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