Digest

April 11, 2008

Woman charged, arrested in Westminster embezzlement

A Westminster woman who is charged with embezzling about $1 million from the Carroll County bank where she worked was arrested yesterday, according to federal investigators.

Karen L. Baer, 46, worked as a teller at Westminster Union Bank, located in the 140 Village Shopping Center, from 1998 to late 2007, according to an affidavit in support of a criminal complaint.

After the bank merged with PNC in 2007, an audit revealed $1,050,000 in unaccounted funds, according to court documents. PNC investigators discovered a pattern of "suspect debit and credit tickets" that appeared to be tied to the shopping center branch, the affidavit stated.

In more than three years, Baer allegedly amassed more than $1 million from the bank, usually in $10,000 increments, court documents indicated.

The affidavit states that a bank security employee confronted Baer last October and said she "admitted that she had been stealing money from the bank since 2002." PNC "terminated" Baer and referred the case to the FBI, according to court documents.

If convicted, Baer could face a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine for embezzlement, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Maryland.

Arin Gencer

Wicomico

: Hebron

Car found, murder suspect still at large

Forensics experts in Wicomico County yesterday were examining a 2002 Chevrolet Blazer that police believe was used as a getaway vehicle in the killing of a Hebron man.

Police were still looking yesterday for Brandon Curtis, 18, who they believe killed Booker Gelzer, a 38-year-old man whose body was discovered Wednesday in the Eastern Shore community.

Sheriff's deputies pulled the Blazer over about 7 p.m. Wednesday, but Curtis was not inside. Maryland State Police spokesman Greg Shipley said the man at the wheel "apparently knew the suspect" and did not steal the Blazer. When questioned by police, he provided "some investigative information," Shipley said.

Police believe Curtis went to his mother's house early Wednesday and fatally shot Gelzer. Neighbors told reporters that Gelzer once had a romantic relationship with Curtis' mother.

No motive has been established for the killing, and police have not recovered the gun. Police obtained a warrant charging Curtis with murder.

"The search is continuing, and it won't stop until we find him," Shipley said. "We are operating on the assumption that [Curtis] is armed and dangerous."

Nick Madigan

Charles

: Newburg

One killed, four hurt in house fire

A 55-year-old disabled man was killed early yesterday and his wife was seriously injured when she tried to save him from their burning Charles County house, according to the Maryland State Fire Marshal's office.

The couple's daughter, 28, and their two grandchildren were injured when they jumped from a second-floor window, said Deputy Fire Marshal Joseph Zurolo.

Officials identified the man as James Nathaniel Thomas Jr., a double-amputee. Zurolo said firefighters found his body in his first-floor front bedroom.

The fire was first reported about 5:30 a.m. in the two-story house in Newburg. A cause has not been determined.

Zurolo said Thomas' wife, Joyce Lynette Thomas, 52, was in her upstairs bed when she heard smoke alarms go off. She ran downstairs "and saw that the fire was in her husband's bedroom," Zurolo said. She tried to rescue him, but intense heat and smoke forced her out of the house, he said.

Baltimore

: Remington

Man sentenced to 17 years in drug case

A 30-year-old Baltimore man was sentenced yesterday to 17 1/2 years in prison for his actions as a member of a city drug organization called the Remington Mob that distributed cocaine and heroin in the city from 1992 through 2005, the Maryland U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Christopher Harryman pleaded guilty to possessing and selling drugs and to arson as part of a narcotics gang that had about a dozen members and traveled to New York and New Jersey to "obtain kilogram quantities" of narcotics that were sold in Remington, federal prosecutors said.

"Firearms were regularly available to the Remington Mob to protect the drug sales and enforce any disputes with rival drug trafficking groups," prosecutors said in a statement. "Those firearms included handguns and shotguns as well as semi-automatic rifles."

Gang members enforced rules through violence, prosecutors said. On April 22, 2005, authorities said Harryman and two others went to a house in the 8100 block of Callo Lane in Baltimore County and set it on fire to retaliate for the theft of 2.2 pounds of cocaine from Harryman's apartment.

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