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Columbia woman guilty of embezzling, again

A 38-year old Columbia woman who spent 18 months in prison for stealing more than $350,000 from her employer will be going back for embezzling from her new boss.

Tiffany Powers faces up to 15 years in prison after a Howard County Circuit Court jury found her guilty late Tuesday of stealing more than $28,000 over a six-month period from Clarksville chiropractor Vaughn Dabbs, for whom she worked a little more than a year as a personal assistant.

According to her attorney, Powers had Dabbs' consent to dip into a bank account he kept for a real estate company he owned; the consent was intended as compensation for tasks he asked her to perform above her $16-an-hour job for Griffin Enterprises. Powers used the money to pay her mortgage and credit card bills, attorney Sam Seidler said.

Among the tasks Powers performed for Dabbs, Seidler said, was cleaning his house and his pool — including removing a dead rat from the water — and picking him up at the airport. Powers' teenage daughter told the jury that she once went with her mother to Reagan National Airport at 2 a.m., but Dabbs had already left.

Assistant State's Attorney Colleen McGuinn painted Powers in a different light, calling her in both opening and closing remarks "a wolf in sheep's clothing."

"She was laughing and smiling, putting her paycheck in one pocket and cash in the other," McGuinn said.

The jury took more than five hours to convict Powers. Seidler said Wednesday that the length of the deliberations demonstrated to him that there was some doubt of his client's guilt. He said she is considering an appeal.

Seidler said he advised Powers against testifying in her own defense because she would likely have faced questions about her 2002 conviction and sentence for embezzling.

"Who's going to believe her with a prior record?" Seidler asked. "You think, ‘Once a thief, always a thief.' "

Powers pleaded guilty to setting up a phony catering account to take $366,000 over a 3 1/2-year period from the temporary employment agency where she worked in human resources. She was sentenced to six years in prison and served 18 months.

According to court records, Powers said at the time that she took the money to help support a drug addiction that began when she was prescribed painkillers after surgery for breast cancer.

Seidler said that Dabbs had many inconsistencies in his own testimony — including why he meticulously looked over the bank account for his chiropractic practice but not for his real estate company — but in the end, the jury believed the doctor.

McGuinn declined to comment until after sentencing June 17.


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