- Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 December 2010 00:00
- Published on Wednesday, 22 December 2010 00:00
- Hits: 957
At approximately 11:30 a.m. on Dec. 17, at Westmoreland Circuit Court, before Judge Joseph J. Ellis, Barbara Marks Worrell pled guilty to 13 felony counts of embezzlement and one felony count of making false statements on income tax returns. The embezzlement charges allege that Worrell, former finance director for Colonial Beach schools, stole at least $337,000 from September 1997 through April 2009.
Mark Gardner, Worrell’s attorney, argued that Worrell be allowed to continue to remain out on bond citing she had been cooperative, was not a flight risk, was not a threat to the community, and further noting that her husband has health problems and her home is currently subject to foreclosure proceedings. Commonwealth’s Attorney Dean Atkins advised Judge Ellis “I will not object to his motion for release.”
Judge Ellis, after consideration of Gardner’s arguments, said “Today, this court will not incarcerate her.” Worrell remains out on bond until Feb. 18, 2011, when she will be sentenced.
Worrell pled guilty to 14 new felony charges that had been delivered to her attorney on the morning of her arraignment. The original 13 charges of embezzlement were nolle prossed. The new 13 embezzlement charges expand the timeframe of Worrell’s embezzlement from September 1997 through April 2009 when Worrell was placed on administrative leave pending results of an investigation originally initiated by Tim Trivett. An additional felony charge of tax fraud was added to the embezzlement charges.
By pleading guilty to all 14 felony charges, each of which carries a potential 20-year sentence, Worrell gave up her right to testify, cross examine witnesses, to have a trial by a jury of her peers, and most importantly, her right to appeal. When questioned by Ellis “Do you understand the consequences of what you’re doing?” Worrell answered very quietly “Yes, sir.”
In describing the 13 embezzlement charges, Atkins informed the Court that Worrell, “the trusted finance director for the Colonial Beach Schools” began in September 1997 falsifying check ledgers to pay herself amounts “substantially in excess of her salary.” Atkins further noted that “her accounting creativity” passed unnoticed through town audits and scrutiny by the School Board.
According to Atkins, each disbursement to herself was veiled by being “fraudulently described as to a different service provider, a different payee.” Atkins further noted that Worrell used the School Board’s credit card “to pay a timeshare in another state.”
Gardner stipulated that, to date, it can be proved that Worrell stole $325,000 from Colonial Beach schools’ general account, $7,000 from the schools’ cafeteria account and $5,000 from the petty cash account. The investigation is continuing with Worrell being cooperative with investigators. Gardner also stipulated that Worrell failed to report the additional income, which is the basis of the additional tax fraud charge.
When arguing for Worrell to remain out on bond pending sentencing on Feb. 18, Gardner relied on Worrell’s cooperation with counsel “to resolve the issue of restitution.” Gardner also noted that Worrell “understands incarceration is a distinct possibility.”
Atkins described his agreement with opposing counsel that if Worrell pled guilty, he would not object to her remaining out on bond and that he would argue his case “at sentencing.” Atkins further noted “It is up to the court.”
Ellis, in rendering his decision noted that “this is an unusual case.” And that he has “confidence in this Commonwealth’s Attorney.” When setting the February sentencing date, Ellis said “her bond will be continued until then.”
Worrell, who was well-coiffed and wearing an all black outfit with black boots, left the courtroom with family members and her attorney the same way she entered — out on bond and able to be at home during the holidays.