The former on-site accountant for a Howard County-owned golf course in Elkridge pleaded guilty yesterday to repeatedly stealing tens of thousands of dollars in cash from the course's daily receipts over a period of several months to feed a gambling addiction.
Deborah Kekich, 36, pleaded guilty to a single count of felony theft by scheme under a plea arrangement in which state prosecutors promised to cap their request for active jail time at 15 months and set the restitution amount at $50,000. Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 30.
Public defender Janette E. DeBoissiere, who represents Kekich, said yesterday that the money taken from the Timbers at Troy golf course never went for luxuries but to an addiction that started when Kekich was a teen-ager.
"I think that when it was happening, she lacked any kind of control to stop it," DeBoissiere said. "Even when she had reason to know she was going to be caught, she couldn't stop herself."
Kekich, who made the daily cash deposits for the 18-hole, 5 1/2 -year-old course, covered up the thefts by maintaining two sets of books - one with the correct amount of cash and gift certificates taken in daily and another that inflated the gift certificates while underreporting the cash flow, according to a statement of facts read into the record.
Kekich, who started working at the course in May 2000, quit in July of last year. Officials at Chicago-based Kemper Sports Management Inc., which runs the golf course for the county and hired Kekich, discovered the discrepancies while training her replacement and ordered an audit, the statement said. In some cases, daily deposits were never made, according to the statement.
The audit determined that $84,192.86 in cash was unaccounted for between September 2000, when the thefts started, and July of last year, according to the statement.
A search warrant for Kekich's home turned up gambling charges and wire transfers to online casinos and a player's card for two Delaware gambling sites, the statement said, and friends said she would travel to out-of-state gambling facilities once or twice a week and spend hours playing slots.
Kekich is in counseling, DeBoissiere said.
After she left Kemper, Kekich, who was unemployed for a time, lost her home and is living with her mother, DeBoissiere said. She lives in the 3300 block of Dulany St. in Southwest Baltimore, court records show.
Howard County has been reimbursed for the missing money by Kemper, which has insurance to cover the loss, officials said.