NEW FOR TUESDAY: Charges Filed In Teachers Union Theft Case

BERLIN — An Ocean Pines woman has been charged with theft and theft scheme after allegedly absconding with over $400,000 from the Worcester County Teachers Association (WCTA) over a three-year period from 2006 to 2009.

Denise Inez Owens, 58, of Ocean Pines, last Friday was charged with two counts of theft over $500 and one count of theft scheme over $500 for alleging bilking the WCTA out of $433,784 while acting in the capacity of the association’s treasurer. In February, Worcester County Bureau of Investigations (WCBI) detectives began an investigation into theft involving the WCTA.

The investigation revealed Owens, who was appointed treasurer from 2006 to 2009, was in charge of all of the association’s financial transactions during the time frame. It was also learned Owens had full access to all of the association’s bank accounts.

During her time as treasurer, it was learned Owens allegedly wrote numerous checks to herself and others. Owens made further withdraws from the account and used the money for personal issues and debt.

In early 2009, a forensic audit of the WCTA’s accounts was conducted and the audit determined the association was short $433,784 and that the shortage was related to Owens’ theft scheme. Owens and the WCTA’s attorneys in Annapolis agreed to have Owens begin paying restitution without notifying authorities about the crime.

However, WCBI followed up on its own investigation and last week charged Owens with theft and theft scheme. She was arrested last Friday and was placed on a $100,000 unsecured bond by a District Court Commissioner pending trial. Owens was released from commitment last Friday after posting the bond.