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Councilwoman faces bad check charge in county

December 30, 1998|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

Hagerstown City Councilwoman Susan Saum-Wicklein has been charged with knowingly writing a bad check to a Hancock jewelry retailer.

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According to allegations in a criminal charging document filed in Washington County District Court, Saum-Wicklein paid for jewelry purchased Nov. 25 at Diamonds Etc. in Hancock with a check for $2,365.

When asked Tuesday about the charges, Saum-Wicklein said she believed the check would be honored at the time she wrote it.

"It was the middle of the Christmas season and I wasn't paying attention to the account," she said. "There was no malicious intent. It just happened."

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Saum-Wicklein, 46, operates The Jeweler's Daughter jewelry store in Hagerstown's Public Square. She was buying items to sell in the shop, she said.

Saum-Wicklein said she soon became aware the check was not honored and discussed the situation with Diamonds Etc. owner David D. Smith.

Saum-Wicklein said she was under the impression Smith was willing to wait until after Christmas for payment.

Smith said Tuesday during a telephone interview that he attempted to contact Saum-Wicklein on Dec. 4, 7, and 10. On Dec. 18 he filed criminal charges.

"It's just business," said Smith, who is running for the Hancock Town Council in the January town election. "I can't afford to do business when I don't get paid."

Saum-Wicklein was on the telephone Tuesday with Smith, making plans to take him a bank certified check to settle the bill. She characterized the situation as a simple accounting mistake followed by "drastic miscommunication.''

"It's being blown out of proportion," she said.

Saum-Wicklein said she plans to pick up her criminal summons today at District Court where her case is scheduled to be heard Feb. 18.

The maximum penalty for a conviction on a felony charge of knowingly writing a bad check for more than $300 is 15 years in prison and a $1,000 fine.

Saum-Wicklein said she hoped her lawyer and Washington County State's Attorney M. Kenneth Long Jr. could work out a settlement to avoid a conviction.

Although he cannot have the charges against Saum-Wicklein dropped, Smith said, "If she brings me the money then I'll be happy and I will relay that to the State's Attorney.''

Long would not comment on the case.

The charge is the latest financial problem for Saum-Wicklein.

Earlier this year, Saum-Wicklein sold the assets of Saum's Credit Jewelers to pay off more than $91,000 in tax liens and other claims that had been filed in court against the company, Washington County Circuit Court records showed.

Saum-Wicklein has since reopened the shop under the name The Jeweler's Daughter at the same Public Square location.

Her family has had a presence in downtown Hagerstown since Hampton E. Saum, Saum-Wicklein's great-grandfather, established the business in 1896.

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