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Man sentenced to one year for cashing synagogue checks

July 28, 2004|by PEPPER BALLARD

After calling him a "thief," a Washington County Circuit Court judge on Tuesday sentenced a man to serve one year in jail for illegally cashing checks taken from a Hagerstown synagogue.

Lewis Andrew Brown, 22, whose last known address was 35 Manor Drive, apartment 1, in Hagerstown, pleaded guilty to felony theft and was sentenced by Circuit Judge John H. McDowell to serve five years in state prison, but four years of the sentence were suspended. Brown was ordered to serve the remaining year at the Washington County Detention Center.

Washington County Assistant State's Attorney Robert Veil said that on July 23, 2003, a secretary for Congregation B'Nai Abraham reported to the Hagerstown Police Department that business checks written by the synagogue had been stolen from their mail slot at the Baltimore Street synagogue.

Veil said Brown took two of the checks - one for about $775 and another for nearly $3,000 - to get cashed at Byers Stop-N-Go on Burhans Boulevard. Although the larger check was not cashed by the store, Brown presented his identification card and endorsed the $775 check, which was cashed, Veil said.

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He said Brown was convicted in 2001 of aggravated robbery in West Virginia, for which he was ordered to serve three years of probation on a 10-year suspended prison sentence. Veil said Brown was on probation at the time of the July 2003 offense.

Brown's defense attorney, Elisha Elliott, said Brown "thought he was helping out a friend who didn't have an I.D."

She said "this was another incident of him not thinking things through."

Elliott said Brown had $200 in cash with him in court Tuesday and was prepared to apply it toward the $763.83 owed to the convenience store. McDowell, after sentencing Brown, said he must pay the rest of the money to the store within six months of his release.

McDowell told Brown that he sees his actions "as more serious than probably you and the state do."

"Time has run out for you," he said. "You're a thief."

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