Former county Democratic Party leader, mother charged in theft

March 14, 2007|by KAREN HANNA

HAGERSTOWN - The former chairman of the Washington County Democratic Central Committee and his mother face charges that they stole money from the Washington County Board of License Commissioners, Maryland State Prosecutor Robert A. Rohrbaugh announced Tuesday.

Ricki Lynn Hemphill, 53, and Constance Joan Rooke, 74, both of Hagerstown, each were indicted on one count of conspiracy and two counts of theft of more than $500, according to Rohrbaugh.

Hemphill and Rooke, who faced similar charges earlier this year before a case against her was placed on the stet docket, are accused of stealing and conspiring to steal money from the liquor board through unearned payroll checks and checks issued to Chalwyn LLC, the indictment states.

Hemphill is the former deputy clerk of Washington County Circuit Court, and Rooke was an office administrator for the liquor board, the prosecutor's press release states.


Neither Hemphill nor Rooke could be reached for comment Tuesday. Attorneys for the pair also were not available.

N. Linn Hendershot, who serves on the Democratic committee, said he had heard rumors that Hemphill was in trouble.

"And, then when he decided not to run for Democratic Central Committee, that was kind of a red flag. Everybody wondered why all the change all of a sudden," Hendershot said.

Hendershot said he was "very disappointed" by the news.

Hemphill officially became chief deputy clerk of court in 1999, according to Herald-Mail records.

Rooke was indicted in October 2006 on charges of felony theft and embezzlement.

The Herald-Mail reported in January that the charges were placed on the stet - or inactive - docket. Charges placed on the stet docket are not prosecuted unless the defendant is charged with new offenses or violates any conditions placed upon them by the court.

The previous indictment accused Rooke of stealing $6,000, The Herald-Mail reported in January.

Cindy Kaye Baer, another woman charged at the time in thefts from the liquor board, pleaded guilty in January to felony theft for taking thousands of dollars from the board and spending the money at Sam's Club and Staples, The Herald-Mail reported.

Court records listed the addresses for Baer and Rooke as 659 Oak Hill Ave.

The new indictments allege that Rooke and Hemphill committed the crimes between 2001 and 2005.

Rohrbaugh said he could not specify how much Rooke and Hemphill are charged with stealing, or how they operated.

"People have asked me that, and I can tell you it's obviously more than $500, and it's in the thousands," Rohrbaugh said.

The indictments charge Rooke and Hemphill with taking unearned payroll checks payable to Rooke.

If convicted, the maximum penalty for each of the conspiracy and theft charges is 15 years incarceration, a fine of $25,000 or both, plus restitution, according to Rohrbaugh.

Hemphill and Rooke are scheduled for arraignment April 26.

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