Ex-security guard gets jail, must pay restitution

Man caught stealing cash from county school safes

May 13, 2004|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

A former security guard for Baltimore County schools was sentenced yesterday to serve 18 months in jail and ordered to repay more than $3,000 taken from the safes of several county schools last year.

Barry Lee Pulliman, 44, of the 1500 block of Tunlaw Road in Baltimore rooted through desks and file cabinets to acquire the combinations to the safes of 23 county schools before being caught in a sting in December at Orems Elementary School in eastern Baltimore County, a prosecutor said during a court hearing yesterday.

"This is the stupidest thing I've ever done in my life," Pulliman told a Baltimore County District Court judge, after apologizing to his former supervisors. "I was in a little bit of financial trouble and I wasn't thinking. ... It's hard to explain."

Judge Daryl G. Fletcher found Pulliman guilty of two counts of felony theft and sentenced him to five years in prison but suspended all but 18 months of the term. Fletcher also ordered him to repay $3,443 to Baltimore County schools.

"This is a terrible situation you've gotten yourself into," the judge told Pulliman. "You were put in a position of trust as a security guard. This was not an isolated incident. This was not spontaneous. You came with gloves and were rooting through desks. You were taking a whole lot of money from a whole lot of people on a calculated and continuing basis."

School officials began to suspect in December that Pulliman, a former Marine who had worked for the school system for about five years, might be behind a series of school thefts.

"It was a process of elimination," Charles Jenkins, the school system's supervisor of safety and security, said in an interview after yesterday's hearing. "We started pulling records and his name started coming up as being in the schools during the reported thefts."

Pulliman pleaded not guilty yesterday morning to the theft charges, but agreed to a statement of facts read by prosecutor Stephen W. Kagay Jr.

In December, school system officials photocopied $1,210 worth of cash and left it in an unlocked safe in the administrative office of Orems Elementary, the prosecutor said. A surveillance camera was set up in the room and Pulliman was dispatched about 7 p.m. Dec. 20 to the school on what he thought was an alarm call.

After completing exterior and interior checks of the school building, Pulliman went to the safe. Watching from a remote location as Pulliman began removing cash from the safe, school officials called police to report a burglary in progress, the prosecutor said.

Officers arrived to find the uniformed security guard sitting at a desk in the administrative office. Pulliman stood, put his hands in the air and said, "You got me," according to the statement of facts.

Police found in the pocket of Pulliman's cargo pants the money that had been photocopied and left in the safe, Kagay told the court.

Sgt. Marion Todd, an officer with the school system's security force, recovered another $1,051.85 from the school system security vehicle driven by Pulliman, who had asked the officers to retrieve his briefcase and personal items from the car, the prosecutor said, adding that the money was in a school system envelope with the words "Golden Ring Middle School" written on it.

Pulliman told police he had stolen the cash that day while responding to an alarm call at the middle school, Kagay said.

School system officials said that principals and PTA leaders sometimes temporarily store petty cash in school safes, along with money raised during school fund-raisers.

Pulliman also shared with police lists of schools with the locations and combinations of 23 buildings' safes, Kagay said. The restitution amount reflects the amount stolen from Orems Elementary and Golden Ring Middle and for $1,181 taken in smaller batches from other county schools, the prosecutor said after the hearing.

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