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For Immediate Release
May 28, 2003
Contact: Sean Caine, 410-576-6357
scaine@oag.state.md.us

FORMER MTA EMPLOYEE SENT TO JAIL FOR STEALING OVER $100,000

Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. announced the sentencing yesterday of Pauline L. Cole, 40, on her conviction for stealing over $100,000 from the Maryland Transit Administration for whom she worked as a secreatary. Judge Paul Smith sentenced Cole, who has since resigned from the MTA, to five years in prison with all but 90 days suspended, to be followed by five years of probation. He also ordered her to make restitution to the State and the private insurance companies that were defrauded in the scheme, at the rate of $350 per month. At the defendant's request, the judge will permit her to serve her 90 days on weekends, and he gave her until June 6th to surrender. The State recommended a sentence of two years to serve, and opposed the requests to serve the sentence on weekends and to delay surrender.

Cole had earlier pled guilty to multiple counts of conspiracy and theft for her role in the massive insurance fraud scheme that she and a co-defendant, Deitra Sharp, engaged in while employed by the MTA. 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, 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, responsbile 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 1997, Sharp and Cole concoted a scheme whereby Sharp would "add" fictitious passengers to the vehicles involved in such accidents, creating bogus claims in the names of relatives and friends, and then approve the claims for payment. Once the fraudulent checks were issued, Sharp gave them to Cole to cash. Cole ran the checks through her invalid mother's bank account over which she had power of attorney. On other occasions, Cole would cash some of these checks - which ranged in amount from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars apiece - at a check cashing facilities around the City.

When the thefts were discovered, both defendants resigned, an internal audit was commenced and a criminal investigation was initiated. That investigation was conducted jointly by the Criminal Investigations Division of the Attorney General's Office and the Maryland State Police.

Not only did the defendants steal money frm the MTA in this fashion, but they also defrauded the State Treasurer, the Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund ("MAIF") and four private insurance companies to whom they had also submitted fraudulent claims in the names of non-existent passengers. The private insurance companies victimized by the scheme were GEICO, Nationwide, Penn National, State Farm and Allstate. After an extensive and exhaustive audit, it was determined that the MTA lost a total of $75,126.03 at the hands of the defendants, while the State Treasurer paid out an additional $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 92 fraudulent checks, was $109,186.66.

The stolen money was spent on lottery tickets and personal expenses, such as hair and nail appointments, vehicles, restaurants and cell phone bills.

The co-defendant Sharp is to be sentenced on Jun 6th by Judge Wanda Heard.

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