School secretary convicted of theft

December 21, 2006|By Arin Gencer | Arin Gencer,Sun Reporter

A former Carroll County school financial secretary was convicted yesterday of stealing thousands of dollars from a middle school.

Linda Sprinkle, 54, of Hanover, Pa., was charged in early 2005 with several counts of felony and misdemeanor theft, as well as one count of misdemeanor embezzlement in the theft of about $20,000 from Hampstead's Shiloh Middle School during the 2003-2004 school year, according to court documents.

Yesterday, a Carroll County Circuit Court jury found her guilty on 12 of 14 counts: nine for felony theft, two for misdemeanor theft and one for misdemeanor embezzlement. Sprinkle had been charged with taking money from a flower-sale fundraiser, spring dance, yearbook sales and field trips, among other school events and activities.

Sentencing has been scheduled for February. Sprinkle could be sentenced to 15 years for each felony count, 18 months for each misdemeanor and five years for the embezzlement count.

"Obviously, we're very disappointed with the jury's decision and are in the process of exploring what grounds we may have to seek a new trial," said Brian DeLeonardo, Sprinkle's attorney.

DeLeonardo had characterized his client as a trusted, longtime employee who was dealing with personal problems and considerable professional duties.

Sprinkle retired in April 2004, after more than 30 years with the school system, when she was confronted about missing money from spring dance ticket sales, according to police records and Melissa Hockensmith, senior assistant state's attorney.

Hockensmith could not be reached for comment yesterday. During the trial, she said that Sprinkle had breached the trust of those she worked with.

"The defendant knew exactly what she was doing," Hockensmith told jurors.

With the verdict, the Carroll County school system can begin the process of getting an insurance payment for the missing funds, said Stephen Guthrie, assistant superintendent of administration.

"We, the school system, are pleased with the verdict, and we're happy to put this issue behind us," Guthrie said.

Sprinkle's conviction follows that of another Carroll financial secretary, Wendy Sue Bowers, who pleaded guilty about two months ago to embezzling more than $200,000 from South Carroll High School in Sykesville.

The recent incidents have spurred the school system to reform how school-based accounts are handled, increasing checks to prevent theft.

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