Ex-Shock Trauma aide pleads guilty to felony theft Man stole injured officer's credit information; gets 10-year prison sentence


A former Maryland Shock Trauma Center nursing aide who used a hospital computer to steal credit information belonging to a critically wounded police officer pleaded guilty yesterday and was sentenced to 10 years in prison, city prosecutors said.

John Wayne Cunningham, 43, a parolee whose criminal past includes a conviction for killing his mother, used personal data to obtain five credit cards in the officer's name and then charged $52,485 worth of purchases and cash advances.

Cunningham, arrested after a Secret Service investigation, pleaded guilty to two counts of felony theft and was sentenced by Baltimore Circuit Judge Roger Brown to two concurrent 10-year sentences.

One of those theft counts related to James E. Beck, a Baltimore County police officer taken to Shock Trauma on Oct. 31, 1993. The officer had been shot three times in the line of duty and nearly died before responding to emergency treatment.

Cunningham, who was a Shock Trauma employee at the time, obtained Officer Beck's Social Security number, address and other information through one of the hospital computers, said Elizabeth A. Ritter, chief of the economic crimes unit of the city state's attorney's office.

"Once he got the information, he went to banks and applied for credit cards," Ms. Ritter said.

Cunningham told the banks to mail the cards to his home address in Baltimore, so Officer Beck was unaware of the new cards in his name, Ms. Ritter said.

One bank eventually became suspicious in the summer of the large transactions -- Cunningham was buying televisions, stereos and other luxury items -- and contacted Officer Beck.

Hospital officials said they were unaware of the seriousness of Cunningham's past crimes when they hired him in August 1993.

In March 1975, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for manslaughter for killing his mother, Augustine Cunningham, 50. She was stabbed three times in bed at her home in the 2800 block of Seamon Ave.

Cunningham's subsequent convictions included assault with intent to murder, a weapons violation, larceny and forgery, court and correctional records show.

Cunningham's job was to assist nurses in everyday tasks such as changing bedsheets. He resigned in April 1994 for reasons the hospital won't disclose.

Officer Beck retired from the police force shortly after returning home from the hospital.

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