Principal testifies in school theft case

Secretary charged in disappearance of funds

December 14, 2006|By Arin Gencer | Arin Gencer,Sun Reporter

A middle school principal testified yesterday in Carroll County Circuit Court about the duties of a former school financial secretary who was charged in the theft of about $20,000 from the school.

George Thomas Hill, former principal at Shiloh Middle School in Hampstead, testified that Linda Sprinkle was also his secretary and one of the first people he hired before the school opened in August 2000.

Sprinkle, 54, of Hanover, Pa., was charged in early 2005 with 10 counts of felony theft, four counts of misdemeanor theft and one count of misdemeanor embezzlement in the theft of about $20,000 from Shiloh in the 2003-2004 school year, according to court documents.

Hill said Sprinkle was instrumental in starting the system for handling money and accounts at the middle school.

"She definitely came with the expertise," Hill said. He later said he "needed to trust her" when it came to monitoring school finances and depositing the money she received from teachers and others from activities or events.

Missing money

Sprinkle had worked for the school system for more than 30 years. She retired from Shiloh in April 2004 after Hill confronted her about money missing from sales of tickets to the school's spring dance, according to police records and senior Assistant State's Attorney Melissa Hockensmith.

If convicted, Sprinkle could be sentenced to 15 years for each felony theft count. Each misdemeanor theft count carries an 18-month sentence. She could be sentenced to five years for misdemeanor embezzlement.

Opening statements from the prosecution and defense on Tuesday painted contrasting portraits of the circumstances surrounding the former secretary.

"It's a case about trust and the breach of that trust," said Hockensmith, as she detailed the fundraisers, field trips, yearbook, flower and uniform sales from which Sprinkle is charged with taking money.

`Very complex' case

Hockensmith told jurors that the case was "very complex" and that she had no smoking gun.

"Each witness holds a piece to the puzzle," she said. "We have to put the pieces of the puzzle together."

Brian DeLeonardo, Sprinkle's attorney, described his client as a longtime, faithful employee who lately was beleaguered by personal problems and professional duties.

Her mother was dying of emphysema, he said. Sprinkle also suffered health problems, he said, undergoing surgery and missing several days of work.

Among the state witnesses, a Shiloh health teacher spoke of a flower-sale fundraiser organized by a student group. The proceeds were to go to charity, said Deborah Finch, the teacher and club adviser.

"There wasn't any money for us to give to them when we went to write checks in May," Finch said. The account held less than $100, but the club had not spent any money, beside paying for the hundreds of flowers they had sold, she said.

DeLeonardo questioned Finch and other witnesses about how certain they were that they handed money from sales to Sprinkle, saying that Sprinkle was not at the school for part of that fundraiser week.

"There's a lot more to this story," DeLeonardo said after Tuesday's testimony.

Almost two months ago, a former South Carroll High School financial secretary pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $200,000 in school funds.

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