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Former ambulance chief named in lawsuit

August 09, 2003|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

A lawsuit accusing the former Smithsburg Ambulance Co. chief of using $187,000 of a local bakery's money to benefit himself, his family and the nonprofit ambulance company will go to trial in February, a judge decided Friday.

Hadley Farms of Smithsburg is accusing Jason Sturm of using $30,000 of its money for his personal use and wrongfully diverting another $33,000 to Smithsburg Ambulance, according to the lawsuit filed in Washington County Circuit Court.

Sturm, as the bakery's former vice president, also made $124,000 in improper payments to a company owned by Sturm's father, the suit alleges.

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Hadley Farms and Selective Insurance Company of America are seeking $187,000 in damages from Sturm, who has moved to Georgia, the suit says. He did not attend the hearing Friday.

No criminal charges were filed against Sturm.

Washington County Circuit Judge Frederick C. Wright III scheduled a two-day trial in the civil case for Feb. 11.

After a 30-minute hearing Friday, Wright refused Sturm's request to dismiss part of the suit concerning Smithsburg Ambulance.

Sturm's lawyer, J. Gregory Hannigan, argued that Hadley Farms owner and President Frank DeHaan signed the donation checks and his company benefited from the associated tax breaks. Wright said that is a question to be resolved at the trial.

Wright also denied Sturm's request to remove a reference to "employee dishonesty" from the lawsuit.

Hadley Farms attorney Russell R. Marks argued that the reference was made to explain the type of insurance the company had to cover its losses.

According to the suit, Hadley Farms received $83,278.74 from the insurance company for Sturm's "wrongful acts."

From March 2001 to February 2002, Sturm allegedly used Hadley Farms money to buy things for Smithsburg Ambulance Co., the suit says.

Those charges included $4,579.35 to Kim Craig for Longaberger baskets and $3,700 to Before and After Painting for work to ambulance vehicles, according to letters from Marks to Hannigan in the court file.

The company questioned charges made to credit cards such as a $961.40 purchase from Versace Jeans Coutur, the letters said. It also questioned commission payments made to Sturm's father's company, Dynasty Foods, from 1998 to 2002.

On March 7, 2002, the day after he left the employment of Hadley Farms, Sturm allegedly used his company credit card to buy $1,338.56 worth of food at Sam's Club, the letters said. Sturm has denied the accusations in the lawsuit.

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