CENTREVILLE — A Chester woman faces felony charges after what authorities are calling an elaborate and large-scale theft scheme.

Patricia Ann Smith, 67, of 107 Martin Road was arrested Tuesday evening, Dec. 9, by deputies from the Criminal Investigations Unit of the Queen Anne’s County Sheriff’s Office after a two-month joint investigation by the Queen Anne’s County State’s Attorney’s Office and the sheriff’s office.

Over the past seven years, Smith is alleged to have stolen more than $350,000 from the Grasonville business where she was employed as the office manager, said State’s Attorney Chief of Staff Rob Penny.

“It was a very elaborate theft scheme. This was a very thorough and in-depth investigation that has resulted in the formal charges against Mrs. Smith. At this point we do not believe any other individuals were involved in the theft; however, the investigation continues,” State’s Attorney Lance Richardson said in a statement.

Richardson filed criminal charges against Smith in Queen Anne’s County Circuit Court Tuesday, resulting in the warrant for her arrest. She is charged with three counts of theft scheme over $500, six counts of theft scheme of $10,000 to less than $100,000 and theft scheme in excess of $100,000.

“Each one of these charges that Mrs. Smith is facing is a felony. Prior to Oct. 1, 2009, the theft statutes involved committing theft in excess of $500. Effective Oct. 1, 2009, the criminal offenses related to theft are basically broken into levels, with theft in excess of $100,000 being the most serious of the theft charges,” Penny said.

While Penny declined to name the business, court records show the victim as Heartland House assisted living facility on Perrys Corner Road.

As the office manager, Smith had access to the business’ finances and was the person in charge of the QuickBooks accounting system, he said.

Smith used her company credit card to make multiple personal transactions and also manipulated the business checkbook, Penny said.

Through an elaborate cover-up, Smith was able to manipulate the internal operating system so that many of her personal transactions looked like official business transactions, Penny alleged.

When the owner or accountants looked at the system, it appeared that the business was just facing tough economic times, he said.

The owner became suspicious when she noticed a lot of what appeared to personal expenses on a credit card statement that came in one day when Smith was absent; she took her concerns to authorities and the investigation began, Penny said.

Smith was held overnight at the Queen Anne’s County Detention Center then taken before a visiting Circuit Court judge for bail review Wednesday, Dec. 10. The judge set bond at $15,000, which was posted. A trial has been set for March 23.

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