SOMERSET COUNTY BUSINESSMAN CONVICTED OF LOOTING HIS MOTHERíS ESTATE, SENTENCED TO JAIL
Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. announced today the conviction of a Somerset County businessman of felony theft. Alfred G. Church, 60, admitted stealing $47,773 from the estate of his mother, Ona Mae Elliott, during the time he had served as its executor from 1997 to 1999. Judge Daniel M. Long of the Somerset County Circuit Court found Church guilty of theft and sentenced him to a period of incarceration of 10 years, with all but one year suspended, five years probation and restitution of the $47,773.
Church, who resides in Marion Station and operates a scuba diving school called Letís Go Diving, had been appointed executor of the estate in late September, 1997 by the Register of Wills in Sussex County, Delaware, where his mother resided at the time of her death. Her estate consisted of over $150,000 in bank accounts and certificates of deposit. According to his motherís will, Church was supposed to pay the bills of the estate, such as his motherís medical and funeral expenses, and then split the remaining proceeds evenly between himself and his two sisters, Joyce Hearn of Salisbury and Shirley Dukes of Laurel. Instead, after paying some but not all of the estateís expenses, Church wrote 33 checks to himself, his wife, and his business, totalling over $100,000. His sisters eventually sought to have him removed as executor and sued him for conversion of the assets of the estate. In early 1999, the Delaware court substituted Joyce Hearn, 57, as executor. At that time, there was only $40,000 of the $150,000 estate remaining.
"When you are appointed executor of someoneís estate, you serve in a fiduciary capacity and are expected to preserve the assets for the benefit of those individuals designated in the will" said Attorney General Curran. "Mr. Church violated that trust and treated the estateís assets as if they were his own."
The matter was referred to the Attorney Generalís Office by the Somerset County Stateís Attorney, Logan C. Widdowson, who assisted in the investigation and prosecution..