Ex-bakery employee guilty of embezzling over $88,000

November 28, 2006|By Tyrone Richardson | Tyrone Richardson,Sun reporter

A former employee of a Jessup-based bakery goods distributor pleaded guilty yesterday in Howard County Circuit Court to the charge of embezzling more than $88,000 over four years.

The Howard County state's attorney's white-collar unit conducted an 18-month investigation - the longest inquiry on record, according to prosecutors - after receiving a complaint that Donna Lynn Hester, 47, of Arnold embezzled funds from Soft Stuff Distributors. Investigators said that Hester altered hundreds of accounting records and stole cash from the employer between 2001 and 2004, according to a statement in support of a guilty plea read in court by prosecutor Lynn M. Marshall.

Hester was charged with theft scheme of more than $500, an offense punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.

Hester's co-defendant, Brian Mascetti, 45, of Arnold, who was a delivery driver for the company, pleaded guilty in August to the same theft charge.

Both are scheduled for sentencing Jan. 9.

Prosecutors said Mascetti and Hester conspired in what they called a "cash skimming scheme" - Mascetti would file customer invoices and cash at the end of the day and Hester, who was a supervisor in charge of accounting, would alter amount totals, court records said.

Investigators said at least 278 invoices had been altered and Mascetti and Hester had a joint banking account that showed more than $88,000 deposited.

Hester was fired in April 2004 after admitting to the company's owner that "she routinely changed invoices for Mascetti," according to court records.

State's attorney Timothy J. McCrone said that such a lengthy investigation is not unusual for an "inherently time-consuming process."

The white-collar unit handles an average of 30 cases at any time, prosecutors said.

"Ms. Hester had gone through pretty substantial lengths to insulate herself from criminal responsibility," McCrone said.

"The key to these white-collar investigations is to be very thorough on every aspect of the trail of the money."


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