Former Howard police chief charged with theft, perjury

Indictment involves his responsibility for late mother's estate

November 10, 2001|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

A town administrator in Cecil County who once served as Howard County's police chief is under indictment on charges that he stole more than $80,000 from his late mother's estate and lied during an Orphans' Court hearing.

A Howard County grand jury returned a three-count indictment Thursday against Robert O. Mathews, 63, of Earlville, on charges of felony theft, misappropriation by a fiduciary and perjury that allegedly took place over a nearly six-year period starting a few months after his mother's death in 1995.

Mathews, the town administrator in Cecilton, served as Howard County police chief from 1975 to 1979. He joined the department in 1959.

Prosecutors contend that Mathews took $82,426 from his mother's estate, that he misused money entrusted to him as the estate's personal representative, and that he lied under oath during a hearing in Orphans' Court, said April Gluckstern, the Baltimore assistant state's attorney handling the case.

Howard prosecutors asked the Baltimore state's attorney's office to take the case after it was brought to their attention by lawyer Richard J. Kinlein, who was chosen to replace Mathews as the estate's personal representative last year, authorities said. Howard County State's Attorney Marna L. McLendon was a county police officer while Mathews was chief.

"We thought it was wise to avoid even the potential appearance of a conflict of interest," said Howard County Deputy State's Attorney I. Matthew Campbell.

Mathews did not return messages left at his Cecilton office, and Gluckstern said she could not comment beyond the indictment.

But Kinlein, who was ordered by the Orphans' Court in May to "immediately take the necessary steps to recover the assets of the estate," said the $82,426 cited by prosecutors represents Mathews' sister's share of the estate and other expenses.

"I just reached the point where it got to be out of my hands," said Kinlein, who as Howard County state's attorney from 1966 to 1975 worked closely with Mathews.

In her handwritten 1988 will, Marian A. Mathews, who died of breast cancer May 17, 1995, divided her estate between her two children - Robert Mathews and Marian Mathews James of Jessup - and left specific pieces of furniture, china and jewelry to her children and her grandson.

Reached yesterday, James said she had no comment. Kinlein said the dispute has left James, who has received only furniture from her mother's estate, "extremely distraught."

Although the will names James personal representative of the estate, the three survivors agreed that Robert Mathews should take the role, according to a file in the register of wills office.

What followed were years of subpoenas and requests for Mathews to present an accounting of the estate, initially valued at just under $122,000. Kinlein's last report on the estate, including interest, placed its value at $183,310.

At times, Orphans' Court judges threatened to remove Mathews as the estate's personal representative.

The case file mentions a "personal loan" of $40,000 from the estate to Mathews for a house, which Mathews said was approved by his mother's heirs.

By March of last year, Mathews had been replaced by Kinlein as personal representative.

This April, the Orphans' Court judges ordered Mathews to turn over the assets of the estate to Kinlein by the end of the month. When he did not, they issued the order directing Kinlein to give the case to prosecutors.

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