New charges delay fraud trial

Ex-finance director of city museum also accused of stealing from Bethesda employer

Baltimore & Region


The city fraud trial of the former finance director of the Baltimore Museum of Industry was delayed yesterday because the man faces new charges of fraud in Montgomery County.

Samuel T. Mercer, charged with stealing $324,000 in museum donations, was arrested on charges that he fraudulently cashed about $31,000 in checks from his new employer's bank account.

The Baltimore trial is now scheduled for Dec. 9. Mercer was arrested Sunday in Montgomery County and remained in jail there yesterday awaiting a bail review, which is the reason the Baltimore case was postponed.

Mercer, 29, had been out of jail awaiting his Baltimore trial when, through a temporary agency, he was hired by a Bethesda-based property management company.

According to Montgomery County charging documents, the business owner, Alvin Aubinoe III, first noticed a problem in May when his bank called to say that his account was overdrawn.

Aubinoe soon discovered that Mercer had been cashing checks ranging from $825 to $4,800 since shortly after he was hired in January, according to the court documents.

When confronted by Aubinoe, Mercer said he took the money because of "marital problems," according to the court documents. He has since been fired.

Aubinoe did not return calls seeking comment yesterday.

The Museum of Industry hired Mercer in July 2002 as a gift shop employee and part-time bookkeeper, and he was promoted to finance director in January 2003, according to museum employees.

Mercer has a lengthy criminal history of arrests and convictions on charges of theft, uttering a false document and theft schemes, according to police and court records. But museum employees said Mercer's background check came up clean.

Museum employees said they grew suspicious of Mercer because he drove lavish cars and said he had inherited $1 million from his grandfather.

He was arrested in May 2004 on charges of operating a continuing theft scheme. His attorney, Warren A. Brown, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Court documents accuse Mercer of depositing 380 museum donations - amounting to about 20 percent of the museum's annual budget - into a separate bank account he had established.

If convicted in Baltimore, Mercer faces a maximum prison term of 15 years, according to the state's attorney's office.

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