PRINCESS ANNE — Princess Anne’s former town manager — found guilty in May of felony theft and theft scheme for diverting more than $100,000 in public funds for personal use — was ordered to serve two years of a 10-year prison sentence followed by five years of supervised probation.
Upon her release Deborah K. Hrusko of Salisbury will be required to complete 200 hours of community service, plus make restitution for an amount to be determined.
Because Hrusko, 57, had no prior criminal record sentencing guidelines called for probation to two years but Somerset County State’s Attorney Wess Garner asked visiting senior Judge Raymond E. Beck of Carroll County to go beyond the guidelines and send Hrusko away for 10 years with another 10 years suspended.
Garner said the mayor of Marydel was sentenced to nine years in 2017 for taking more than $61,000 in town funds, and this case was similar because Hrusko was in a position of trust and it was a white collar crime.
While Public Defender Arch McFadden was not familiar with the Marydel case he disagreed "vehemently" with the state’s recommendation and told the judge that Hrusko’s health issues including COPD "are significant for a woman past middle age," and that there are "significant concerns" placing her in an institution where contracting COVID-19 "may be much worse for her."
As for restitution the town recovered from the bonding company $103,248.93 which was $2,500 more than what was shown in court to have been taken. On that Judge Beck reminded the defense that the state had 200 hours at $200 per hour invested in a forensic audit for the prosecution of the case and repayment of that $40,000 is something he would consider for restitution.
McFadden countered that there is no mechanism short of a civil proceeding to recover an expense of the prosecution, and had his client been found not guilty such a reimbursement would not even be considered.
McFadden also said if her home is not already in foreclosure it is imminent, adding that her employment options are limited to "manual labor" and that she is an important member of her family to her adult children and grandchildren, serving as a babysitter on weekends.
At sentencing Tuesday, Judge Beck said Hrusko showed a lack of remorse, maintained plausible deniability, plus attempted to implicate others. He would not, however, exceed the guidelines on the prison time. The sentence for the second count, theft scheme over $100,000, was identical to the first and runs concurrently.
Prior to sentencing Hrusko told the judge her attorney had said everything that needed to be said. She continued, however, not to proclaim her innocence or apologize but instead to take issue with a remark State’s Attorney Garner made that the loss of $100,000 was "quite a hit" on the town’s finances.
Hrusko said when she took over as town manager it was in the hole by $180,000 but when she left in January 2020 there was over one million dollars in the fund balance. "They weren’t hurting for money," she said.
After sentencing deputies moved in to escort Hrusko to the holding cell as she blew a kiss to family members seated in the gallery. She is now at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women in Jessup, and her attorney has filed an appeal.
The investigation into the theft of cash started in January 2020 when there was a $1,000 cash deposit to be made by the police department which was taken to the town office for processing. The employee who was to receive the envelope was not at work that Friday, and when back at work on Monday was told by Hrusko she had come in over the weekend to handle it.
That started an investigation and audit which led to Hrusko being fired by the Town Commissioners, and according to court testimony, for the 2019 calendar year there were no cash deposits made when receipts showed $71,885.56 was received.
All told from 2018 through January 2020 there was $100,748.93 unaccounted for, according to PKS & Co. Certified Fraud Auditor Andrew Haynie.
At her jury trial in May, Hrusko said "No" when asked by her attorney if she took any money from the town but she had no explanation when the state asked why there were no cash deposits made in 2019. She also did not recall making changes to 170 payment entries in the computer accounting system on a Sunday in September 2019 — the day before the annual audit was to begin.
As for over $43,000 in cash deposits made into her personal bank account in 2019, that was explained as cash from her children to pay for cars and insurance, cashed checks for personal loans, and occasional winnings from Ocean Downs Casino which she frequented.
Hrusko started work for the town in February 2009 as an accounts payable clerk and moved up to finance administrator in May 2014. In August 2015 at the request of the Town Commissioners she accepted the additional responsibilities of town manager with an annual salary by 2019 of nearly $96,000.
At some point in 2017 Hrusko took charge of making all deposits, and a former accounting clerk testified that "it was a mess" with "a lot of angry citizens" when Hrusko would be out for health problems and deposits were not being made until she returned to work.