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Sentencing delayed in theft case

March 07, 1997

By MARLO BARNHART

Staff Writer

Sentencing was postponed Thursday in Washington County Circuit Court for a Funkstown man who admitted stealing nearly $46,000 by fraudulently using his mother-in-law's name on bogus credit cards and forged checks.

John Ellsworth Brantner Jr., 50, faces the possibility of 45 years in prison after pleading guilty to two counts of felony theft and one count of theft by scheme.

As part of the plea agreement, Brantner will be ordered to make restitution of nearly $46,000.

The charges were brought last June after a lengthy investigation by Hagerstown City Police Detective George Brandt, former Washington County Sheriff's Department Investigator Rick Ziolkowski and U.S. Secret Service Agent Wayne Paret.

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The more than 100 charges originally lodged against Brantner included felony theft, credit card fraud, forgery, uttering and theft by scheme, according to police reports.

According to police reports, the incidents began in late June 1995, shortly after the death of Brantner's wife, the daughter of the victim. They continued through March 1996.

The police investigation turned up a number of photographs taken at ATM machines around Washington County. The photos showed Brantner making transactions involving the credit cards, police reports said.

The investigation began after the victim, who lives in a housing development for the elderly, told police she had been getting phone calls from credit card companies seeking payment for cards she didn't have.

Six credit cards had been obtained in the woman's name and sent to Brantner's former address in Boonsboro, police reports said. Charges to those cards totaled $18,512.38.

Ziolkowski's cases totaled about $16,000, according to Sgt. Randy Wilkinson.

In exchange for the three guilty pleas, all other charges were dismissed Thursday.

Judge John H. McDowell didn't jail Brantner but placed him on home detention until sentencing.

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