Friday, January 16–Elderly Embezzler Must Pay Back $105K

SNOW HILL – A West Virginia woman indicted by a Worcester County grand jury in May on six counts including theft, theft scheme and forgery after embezzling over $100,000 from an elderly Ocean City man in her care was found guilty this week on a theft scheme charge after a two-day trial in Circuit Court and was sentenced to five years in jail, all of which was suspended in favor of probation and restitution to the victim.

Scharma Louise Hayes, 42, of Martinsburg, West Virginia, was in Circuit Court this week to face several serious charges after being indicted in May by a Worcester County grand jury in a vast theft and forgery scheme against carried out over a period of several months against an elderly Ocean City man in her care. The bench trial lasted all day Monday and resumed on Tuesday morning before Judge Theodore Eschenberg found her guilty of felony theft scheme over $500.

Hayes was sentenced to five years in jail, all of which was immediately suspended. She was then placed on supervised probation for three years and ordered to pay over $105,000 in restitution the victim of the theft scheme. According to police reports, the victim apparently took Hayes into his confidence and occasionally provided her with extra money, but she ultimately took advantage of his generosity and allegedly bilked him out of about $150,000.

The grand jury reviewed the evidence and indicted Hayes on May 5 on six counts including three counts of felony theft, one count of felony theft scheme over $500 and two counts of forgery. The grand jury indictment illustrates a pattern of theft and forgery carried out over several months in 2007 during a time when the victim’s health became an issue and Hayes allegedly had a lot of unrestricted access to his finances.

The single largest charge is the felony theft scheme over $500 charge which revealed a pattern of theft carried out between May 8, 2007 and Dec. 16, 2007, during which Hayes absconded with nearly $116,000 in currency.

The other charges deal with specific transactions Hayes made during her theft spree. For example, on May 15, 2007, Hayes forged the victim’s signature on a check made payable to herself in the amount of $1,625. In another forgery count, Hayes allegedly forged the victim’s signature on a Merrill Lynch CMA account made payable to an unknown personin the amount of $12,500.

The three felony theft charges deal with specific examples of Hayes stealing cash from the victim. For example, one count shows Hayes allegedly made off with $4,300 in cash from the victim in July 2007.