Former secretary charged in thefts

Woman accused of taking funds from Carroll school

February 06, 2005|By Gina Davis | Gina Davis,SUN STAFF

A former secretary who was responsible for handling the finances at Shiloh Middle School in Hampstead was charged last week with stealing nearly $20,000 from school accounts, police officials said.

Linda Sprinkle, 52, of the first block of Country Lane in Hanover, Pa., a 33-year school system secretary, was charged with 10 counts of felony theft, four counts of misdemeanor theft and one count of misdemeanor embezzlement, court records show.

If convicted of felony theft, Sprinkle could be sentenced to up to 15 years on each count. The misdemeanor theft charges each carry a possible 18-month sentence, and the misdemeanor embezzlement count carries up to a five-year sentence.

School dance proceeds

Police records showed that school officials suspected Sprinkle of mishandling funds after Principal Tom Hill discovered $500 was missing from the proceeds of a school dance in March. When Hill confronted Sprinkle, she blamed a teacher for the missing funds, police said.

School officials told police that Sprinkle had been seen buying as much as $200 worth of lottery tickets at a time and recently had gone on a gambling cruise, police records show.

Employees of a local liquor store told police that Sprinkle usually came to the store three or four times a week to buy scratch-off lottery tickets, according to police records. School officials began examining financial records after noticing the dance funds were missing.

Other accounts

"Mr. Hill stated that due to the dance discrepancies, they looked into other accounts at the school and found several that were short on funds," according to police documents.

School officials pored over bank statements from Westminster Union, where the school has a checking account, and discovered "that the usual cash deposits began to decrease in November of 2003 and ceased in January of 2004," the documents said.

Police said Hill reported his suspicions to Hampstead officers in mid-April, after questioning Sprinkle about other missing funds as well as the unauthorized purchase of a digital camera.

Joint inquiry

Hampstead police and the Carroll County state's attorney's office conducted a joint investigation, said Melissa O. Hockensmith, senior assistant state's attorney. As part of the investigation, authorities removed computer equipment and financial documents from the school.

The county's Office of Performance Auditing began an audit of the school's financial records last summer.

Hockensmith, who declined to comment on the auditor's findings, said the "investigative part of the audit" is complete.

Employee since 1971

Sprinkle, who had worked in the school system since 1971 and had been at Shiloh since it opened in 2000, could not be reached for comment Friday.

"She's innocent until she's proven guilty," said a man who answered the phone at her home late Friday afternoon and identified himself as her husband.

Hill, the principal, declined to comment on the charges. He directed all questions to the school system's community media relations office.

"The school system is cooperating with the state's attorney's office and the county government," spokeswoman Carey Gaddis said Friday. "We can't comment on the investigation because it took place when [Sprinkle] was no longer employed with the school system."

Given an option

According to police documents, school officials gave Sprinkle the option of retiring or being fired after she refused to answer questions about the missing funds and the camera.

Sprinkle, whose salary was $36,130, retired April 1, Gaddis said.

Hockensmith said her office is continuing its investigation as it prepares its case against Sprinkle.

"The money has not been found," Hockensmith said Friday.

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