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Former bar association administrator sentenced for theft

A former administrator at the Maryland State Bar Association has been sentenced to prison for stealing $265,000 from the organization's charitable arm.

Nicole Earl-Hernandez, 42, of Essex received a five-year sentence Friday with all but 18 months of that time suspended.

Baltimore Circuit Judge Timothy J. Doory added three years' probation on the end of her jail term and ordered her to repay the association in full.

Earl-Hernandez stole the money from the Maryland Bar Foundation, a nonprofit the association has operated in support of charitable law-related causes since 1965.

If she violates the terms of her probation, the state could require her to serve some or all of the 42 suspended months.

"We see that as backup time," said Mark Cheshire, a spokesman for the Baltimore state's attorney's office, which prosecuted the case.

Earl-Hernandez worked at the bar association for 12 years, starting as an office clerk and working her way up to a managerial position and a spot on the association's board. In her most recent job, as administrative director, she oversaw three of its bank accounts.

She stole the money from all three between September 2007 and July 2012, Cheshire said.

Earl-Hernandez wrote checks to herself and to cash, and used withdrawal slips to remove funds from foundation accounts, according to a statement released Friday by the state's attorney's office.

She often withdrew the funds from an M&T Bank location near the bar association's office at 520 W. Fayette St., depositing them directly into her personal account at Bank of America, Cheshire said.

An association executive noticed irregularities in the books in June 2012. When police interviewed Earl-Hernandez two months later, she confessed to the thefts.

After a grand jury indicted her, Earl-Hernandez pleaded not guilty at her arraignment last May but entered a guilty plea in December as part of a deal with prosecutors.

Her attorney, James Rhodes, did not respond to calls seeking comment.

The Maryland Bar Foundation has awarded more than $23,000 in grants to law-related nonprofits since 2011. It reported assets of $352,191 in June 2012, according to GuideStar, an online database.

jonathan.pitts@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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