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Baltimore Woman Accused Of Stealing Thousands From United Way

BALTIMORE (WJZ)—A stunning case of theft could land a woman in federal prison for decades. She's accused of stealing almost half a million dollars from the United Way, which funds programs for the needy across Maryland.

Mike Hellgren takes you inside the investigation.

This federal indictment lays out in detail what prosecutors call a woman's scheme to steal big money from the United Way, a charity that serves the needy in Baltimore City and every surrounding county.

"It came to the attention of the FBI," said Stephen Schenning.

Schenning, with the U.S. Attorney's Office, says an exhaustive investigation revealed a senior administrative coordinator for the charity—Dorothy Shields Talbot—took $400,000 over several years.

"She was an employee, and she also had a position of trust," Schenning said. "She was supposed to receive these monies and place them in the appropriate accounts."

Here's how the feds say it worked: the United Way wanted Talbot to close a bank account, but she instead, they say, funneled donors' checks into it. And she changed the address to her own, so no one would know, and used the money for herself.

Talbot wasn't home when WJZ stopped by her house in Baltimore County.

"It's shocking," said her neighbor. "I didn't think someone could do something like that."

The United Way tells WJZ that insurance will cover most of the loss, and the charity "took immediate steps to prevent a recurrence of such a breach.  As an abundance of caution, we are commissioning an independent review of our internal control procedures."

"We're seeking to recover the $400,000 or substitute assets," Schenning said, "$400,000 is a lot of money."

The charity believes Talbot was acting alone.

Talbot is considered innocent until proven guilty. She faces up to 20 years in federal prison. The U.S. Attorney's Office says she's not in jail right now.

The United Way commended what it called the aggressive prosecution of this case, saying it's critical to protect both donors and people in need.

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