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Ex-sewer director pleads innocent to charges

February 26, 2005|By CANDICE BOSELY

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Walt Sebert, the former director of the Berkeley County Public Service Sewer District, pleaded innocent Friday to an embezzlement charge stemming from allegations that he used unauthorized county credit cards to purchase more than $31,000 worth of goods for his personal use.

Sebert, 52, of 162 Noll Drive, Martinsburg, also pleaded innocent to 11 misdemeanor counts of possessing a counterfeit credit card. The credit cards were considered to be counterfeit because they were obtained for the sewer district without approval from the district's board of directors, Berkeley County Prosecutor Pamela Games-Neely said.

Last week, a grand jury indicted Sebert on the felony embezzlement charge and the 11 misdemeanor charges. He appeared Friday afternoon before Circuit Judge Christopher Wilkes to be arraigned.

After Sebert waived his right to a speedy trial, Wilkes scheduled his trial to begin Aug. 16. Sebert, who was not taken into custody after the indictment was handed up, is allowed to remain free on a $37,000 personal recognizance bond.

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Sebert is charged with using the sewer district to obtain credit cards from Wal-Mart, OfficeMax, Borders, Staples, Advance Auto Parts, Southern States, 84 Lumber, Chevron, AT&T and Quarles Fuel Network, according to the indictment paperwork.

The sewer district's board of directors did not authorize Sebert to obtain the cards and did not know he possessed them, Games-Neely said.

Altogether Sebert made $31,608 in unauthorized purchases from April 2003 to May 2004. The items he purchased, including tools, furniture and shelving, were for his own use, Games-Neely said.

He is not charged with embezzling cash.

Sebert was fired in May 2004, two days after the sewer district's board of directors learned about the embezzlement, which surfaced during an audit, according to John Kunkle, chairman of the board.

Sebert's attorney, Kevin Mills, said last week that Sebert will "vigorously contest" the allegations.

"If that involves a closer examination of the (sewer district's) business practices, that's what he'll have to do," Mills said last week. He was not present during the arraignment.

"There's more to the Walt Sebert indictment than Walt Sebert," Mills has said.

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