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For Immediate Release
March 24, 2003
Contact: Sean Caine, 410-576-6357
scaine@oag.state.md.us

FORMER MTA EMPLOYEE
CONVICTED OF STEALING OVER $100,000

Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. announced today the conviction of Pauline L. Cole, 40, on multiple counts of conspiracy and theft for her role in a massive insurance fraud scheme that she and a co-defendant, Deitra Sharp, engaged in while employed by the Maryland Transit Administration. Judge Paul Smith took the plea and scheduled sentencing for May 27, 2003.

According to a Statement of Facts, Cole, of the 4000 block of Nicholas Avenue in Baltimore, conspired with Sharp, of the 2000 block of Edison Highway in Baltimore, to steal insurance checks issued by the MTA and other insurance entities and companies, over a four year period between 1997 and 2001, when their scheme was discovered.

Sharp was an adjuster in the MTA’s Transit Insurance Group, responsible for the processing of personal injury and property damage claims made by individuals against the MTA as a result of accidents involving MTA buses and other vehicles. In late 1997, Sharp and Cole, a friend who worked in another division of the MTA, concocted a scheme whereby Sharp would "add" fictitious passengers to the vehicles involved in such accidents, creating bogus claims in the names of their relatives and friends, and then approve the claims for payment. Once the fraudulent checks were issued, they would be given to Sharp for distribution to the supposed claimants. Instead, she gave them to Cole, who cashed them, using her mother’s or her husband’s bank accounts. There were also numerous instances of the defendants cashing the checks at various check cashing facilities.

When the thefts were discovered, both defendants resigned, an internal audit was commenced and a criminal investigation was initiated. Ultimately, it was determined that the defendants stole money by submitting fictitious claims not only to the MTA, but also the Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund, the State Treasurer, and five private insurance companies (GEICO, Nationwide, Penn National, State Farm and Allstate). The MTA was determined to have lost a total of $75,126.03 at the hands of the defendants, while the State Treasurer paid out $17,710.63 in bogus claims. The losses of MAIF and the five private insurance companies totaled $16,350.00. The total theft amount, comprising 48 fraudulent MTA checks, seven fraudulent State Treasurer checks and 37 fraudulent checks issued by MAIF and the private insurance companies, was $109,186.66.

According to the Statement of Facts, the stolen money was spent on lottery tickets and personal expenses, such as hair and nail appointments, vehicles, restaurants and cell phone bills.
The guilty plea was pursuant to a plea agreement wherein Ms. Cole agreed to plead guilty to all nine charges that were filed against her and the State agreed to recommend a sentence of five years in addition to restitution.

The charges were the result of an investigation by the Attorney General’s Criminal Investigations Division and the Maryland State Police.

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