A former treasurer of the University of Baltimore School of Law's Student Bar Association has pleaded guilty to stealing $33,000 from the organization.
Margaret Oyler, 29, never graduated from the law school and found herself instead sitting as a defendant Thursday before a Baltimore judge. Oyler was given a five-year suspended prison sentence and three years' probation. She must also pay back the money.
In an interview, Oyler said the thefts happened during "an extremely dark period in my life."
She said she used some of the money to feed her alcohol and prescription painkiller habits. Her probation will include substance abuse treatment, Oyler said.
"It wasn't just like one day I woke up and decided, 'Let's do this,' " Oyler said. "I can't describe in words where your head goes. … Everything that I'm trying to do is trying to right this wrong and correct this mistake."
She has borrowed money from her family to repay the bar association, her lawyer said, and will make the payment soon.
Oyler, who was elected to the treasurer's job in the spring of 2010, stole the money between October 2010 and March 2012, prosecutors said. Julius M. Blattner, the association's president at the time, said in an interview that Oyler provided board members with false financial statements in an attempt to cover her tracks.
But Blattner said he started investigating when he asked Oyler to summarize the group's finances for his successor and noticed some irregularities in its spending. He pulled the organization's bank records and, Blattner said, the theft quickly became apparent.
"Most of the information was clear in the bank statements," he said. "Because she used the organization's credit card, it basically kept a running track of everything."
Oyler spent the money on shopping trips and wrote herself a check, said Blattner, who is now an attorney in Towson.
Blattner told the other board members and two law school officials, who launched an investigation. He also confronted Oyler.
"It was strange," he said. "I didn't understand it, but I don't think she had any explanation for it either."
Oyler confessed the thefts to Blattner, according to the state's attorney's office, but she said she does not recall it.
"Julius says that I made a confession to him, but I don't remember … because I was so drunk," Oyler added. After they talked, she said, she tried to kill herself and woke up in Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.
University of Baltimore police investigated the case and Oyler was charged this month.
Law school spokeswoman Hope Keller said Oyler did not graduate and that the dean of students is working with student organizations to help improve their financial oversight. No university or public money was taken, she said.
Andrew Wong, the incoming president of the Student Bar Association, said the board had mapped out next year's events assuming it would not see the return of the stolen money. Blattner said the amount taken was a significant portion of the group's budget, but Wong said it was able to "manage."
Wong had not talked to the other board members about the resolution of the case, but he hoped to put the money to good use.
"The first instinct I would have is to somehow reinvest the money back to the students," he said.