Wildlife sanctuary head charged with fraud

October 14, 2006|By TOM PELTON

State prosecutors charged the 52-year-old director of a wildlife sanctuary with fraud yesterday for receiving $150,000 for a wetlands on the Eastern Shore that officials say she never built.

Dianne D. Pearce, head of the nonprofit Chesapeake Wildlife Sanctuary, could receive up to 5 years in prison and a $3,000 fine and be forced to give back the money if convicted, according to the Maryland attorney general's office. She could not be reached for comment.

Eight years ago, Pearce's organization received 88 acres of land in Worcester County from Perdue Farms, plus $150,000, with the agreement that the group would build a wetlands to improve the environment, according to a complaint filed in Worcester County Circuit Court.

Perdue provided the land and money as part of settlement with the Maryland Department of the Environment for water pollution violations.

Pearce's organization never built the wetlands and did not keep good records to show what it had done with the money, according to prosecutors.

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