March 24, 2003
Sean Caine, 410-576-6357
CONVICTED OF STEALING OVER $100,000
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.
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 MTAs 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 mothers
or her husbands bank accounts. There were also numerous instances
of the defendants cashing the checks at various check cashing facilities.
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.
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
Generals Criminal Investigations Division and the Maryland