SOMERSET COUNTY MAN INDICTED ON CHARGES RELATED TO MISHANDLING OF DECEASED MOTHERíS ESTATE
Baltimore - Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr., announced today that the Somerset County Grand Jury indicted Alfred G. Church on three counts in connection with his mishandling of the estate of his mother, Ona Mae Elliott. A criminal summons will be issued and arraignment has been schedule for July 5, 2001, in the Somerset County Circuit Court in Princess Anne. Trial has been scheduled for October. Church faces a maximum of 35 years incarceration and a fine of $1,000, plus restitution.
The Grand Jury charged Church with Felony Theft, Fraudulent Misappropriation by a Fiduciary and Conspiracy. Church, 60, resides at 5841 Cornstack Road, Marion Station, and owns a scuba diving business called Let's Go Diving. He was appointed Executor under his mother's will, which was probated in Sussex County, Delaware, where she was living at the time of her death at age 77, in September 1997. When he failed to account to the court for how he had spent the money in his mother's account his sisters, Joyce Hearn, of Salisbury, and Shirley Dukes, of Laurel, petitioned the Delaware court to remove him as Executor. The court agreed and removed him by order dated February 22, 1999. On March 9, 1999, the same court appointed Joyce as the substitute Executor.
According to papers on file with the Delaware court, at the time Alfred Church became the estate's Executor, it had approximately $151,000 in bank accounts and Certificates of Deposit. By the time Church was removed as Executor, less than two years later, only $40,000 was left in the estate. In fact, Church had written over $109,000 in checks to himself, his wife Leslie and to his business.
The grand jury charged him with stealing a total of $47,773.56 from the estate. The rest of the money had been used by Church to pay approximately $19,000 in estate expenses, such as taxes, filing fees and medical bills for Mrs. Elliott, leaving a net balance of $131,000 in the residuary estate.
According to the terms of the will, each of Mrs. Elliott's three children - Alfred Church, Joyce Hearn and Shirley Mason - were to take an equal share of the residuary estate. In this case, that would be approximately $44,000 apiece. Instead, Church took not only his $44,000 share, but also $47,773 of Joyce and Shirley's shares.
An indictment is merely an accusation of criminal wrongdoing and each individual is presumed innocent and cannot be found guilty except by a finding beyond a reasonable doubt.