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Former PTA president charged with theft

Former PTA president charged with theft
Christine Samuels was arrested Thursday for allegedly stealing close to $10,000 from the Orems Elementary School's PTA during the time she was the group's president. (Algerina Perna / Baltimore Sun)

A Baltimore County woman was arrested Thursday and charged with stealing close to $10,000 from the Orems Elementary School's PTA during the time she was the group's president.

Christine Samuels, 43, of Essex turned herself in to authorities Thursday and was released on $10,000 bail.

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The felony theft charge stems from funds that the Orems PTA told police went missing in 2013.

"Stealing from children is awful," said Adam Lippe, assistant Baltimore County state's attorney. He added that while Samuels has not yet been tried on the allegation, "children suffer when people steal from the PTA."

The theft charge carries a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in jail and a $10,000 fine.

Samuels was featured in an article in The Baltimore Sun on Sunday in which she spoke about trying to save two of her sons from their addiction to heroin, as well as her own struggles with drugs.

Samuels declined to comment.

Samuels previously had been charged in Baltimore County District Court with using more than $7,800 of the PTA's funds to purchase items and to write checks to herself, friends and others, but officials decided not to prosecute the case, Lippe said. Instead, because of the amount of loss, new charges were filed in Circuit Court, he said.

Further investigation revealed that money from two fundraisers also was missing, which brought the total amount allegedly stolen to just under $10,000, he said.

Samuels' lawyer, Arthur Frank, said in an email that his client thought the dismissal of the District Court charges meant the allegations were behind her.

"She says she did the best she could as a volunteer trying to help, but assures me that if there are any mistakes or discrepancies with respect to her accounting to the PTA, she will make sure they are paid back," Frank said.

According to documents filed in the earlier District Court case, the PTA president who succeeded Samuels told police that the group had noticed problems with its account and asked state PTA officials for an audit. Police were told that Samuels resigned as president in October 2013 after learning about the audit, according to the documents.

The auditor found 23 checks and purchases totaling $7,819.25 from August to October of 2013 that Samuels had written or made without getting authorization from the PTA or documenting them with receipts, according to court documents. The auditor also said Samuels wrote false reasons in the memo line of the checks for the expenditures, including that they were for supplies or other items that PTA officials said they never saw, according to the documents.

The principal of Orems Elementary, Marcia Wolf, declined to discuss the allegations, and the current PTA president, Jeanne Cox, did not respond to a request for comment.

Emory Young, president of the Baltimore County PTA Council, declined to discuss the charge against Samuels.

"We have to wait and see how the legal proceedings turn out and whether this person is found guilty," Young said. "The fact that this situation happened is unfortunate."

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