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For Immediate Release
June 9, 2003
Contact: Sean Caine, 410-576-6357
scaine@oag.state.md.us

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

Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. announced today that Dietra Sharp, 37, was sentenced on June 6 for stealing over $100,000 from the Maryland Transit Administration for whom she worked as an insurance claims adjuster. Judge Wanda Heard sentenced Sharp, who has since resigned from the MTA, to five years incarceration, with all but one year suspended, five years probation and restitution of $54,593.33 to the State and other victims.

Sharp 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, Pauline Cole, engaged in while employed by the MTA. Sharp, of the 2000 block of Edison Highway in Baltimore, conspired with Cole, of the 4000 block of Nicholas Avenue in Baltimore, over a four-year period between 1997 and 2001, to file bogus insurance claims against the State and other insurance entities, resulting in the issuance of over $109,000 in checks to which they were not entitled. When their scheme was discovered in 2001, they both resigned their positions at MTA, an internal audit was commenced and a criminal investigation was initiated.

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 1997, Sharp and Cole 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, 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 check cashing facilities around Baltimore. 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 from the MTA, but they also defrauded the State Treasurer, the Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund, 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 defendants spent the money on lottery tickets and personal expenses, such as hair and nail appointments, vehicles, restaurants and cell phone bills.

Sharp's co-defendant Cole was sentenced last week by Judge Paul Smith to 90 days incarceration, probation and restitution.

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