Former SHA worker pleads guilty in theft

She took funds for children's party

November 23, 2006|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN REPORTER

A 49-year old Baltimore woman entrusted with funds for a State Highway Administration Christmas party for her co-workers' children pleaded guilty yesterday in Baltimore Circuit Court to stealing much of the money.

Javana Jenkins of Canton, a clerk who worked at the agency's offices in the 700 block of N. Calvert St., never held the party, which raised the suspicions of Walter Lycett, a retired employee who had turned the funds over to her.

Jenkins repaid the money she stole, and under a plea agreement with the attorney general's office was given a suspended 18-month jail term and 18 months' probation by Judge Gale E. Rasin. She was fired earlier this year.

"Thank goodness a retired individual called in," said Assistant Attorney General Carolyn H. Henneman, who prosecuted the case.

Henneman said state officials might not have discovered the theft because the $8,000 fund belonged to employees.

Despite that, Maryland's attorney general must investigate misconduct by state employees.

"The state is not out money. It was because she was stealing from her colleagues, and she was stealing from children" that Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr.'s office became involved, Henneman said.

Sean Coleman, Jenkins' public defender, was not available for comment yesterday.

According to a statement of facts submitted in court, Jenkins was entrusted with the fund in late 2004 when Lycett, the fund's former manager, retired.

The money was collected through workers' private fundraising. Jenkins deposited $8,000 in the fund in January of last year..

But no party occurred in December of last year, and Lycett requested an internal audit.

The audit revealed that the fund balance dipped to $2,585 at one point between January 2005 and January 2006.

It also showed that Jenkins deposited $4,000 after she was asked to produce bank records, but did so before she actually turned them over.

She later told investigators that she mingled her own money with the fund and had used $1,368 for two purchases, paid off a $1,288.50 debt she owed a collection agency and paid $79.95 for an online genealogy service. Other expenses were arguably legitimate, the statement said.

Jenkins admitted, according to the statement, that she was "not keeping track very carefully," since she didn't keep records for the fund. She also admitted she "sometimes" used the fund for her own expenses.

larry.carson@baltsun.com

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