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Former county employee awaits sentencing after pleading guilty to theft and perjury charges


Former county employee awaits sentencing after pleading guilty to theft and perjury charges

May 25, 2023 | 12:47 pm ET
By Bryan P. Sears
Former county employee awaits sentencing after pleading guilty to theft and perjury charges
The Baltimore County Circuit Courts Building in Towson. Photo by Bryan P. Sears.

The former campaign treasurer to two former Baltimore County officials faces a year in jail after pleading guilty to theft and perjury.

William Christopher McCollum, 52, of Lutherville, pleaded guilty in Baltimore County Circuit Court on Thursday to one count of felony theft scheme and perjury connected to the theft of more than $125,000 from two campaign accounts.

Outside the fourth-floor courtroom in Towson, former Councilmember Cathy Bevins (D) said she was satisfied with the plea agreement that resolves charges brought against McCollum in February by the Office of the State Prosecutor. The 21-count statement of charges included the theft of more than $110,000 from Bevins’ campaign account.

Bevins said she and McCollum “were friends, close friends.”

“That was the hardest for me to get past, having a friend be disloyal to you,” said Bevins. “It’s a hard hit when you find out something like that is happening right under your nose.”

Bevins, who is battling cancer, said it was difficult to come to court but was “very happy with the outcome. I believe justice has been served.”

The plea resolves the vast majority of charges faced by McCollum, a political insider and former Baltimore County government employee.

The Office of the State Prosecutor charged McCollum in February with 21 counts including felony theft and embezzlement.

In those charges, prosecutors alleged McCollum stole more than $110,000 from Bevins campaign account between April 23, 2015, and Jan. 31, 2020. The charges further alleged he stole more than $31,000 from the Baltimore County Victory Slate. McCollum served as treasurer on both campaign accounts.

Under an agreed statement of charges, McCollum pleaded guilty to one count of felony theft scheme related to Bevins’ campaign account. Prosecutors said McCollum used $64,189.89 in campaign funds to pay credit card bills. He also wrote more than $13,400 in checks for allegedly legitimate expenses related to the campaign but deposited the money into his personal account.

McCollum also made $5,000 in electronic transfers from Bevins’ account to his personal account and deposited $28,400 in checks made out to the Bevins campaign into his personal bank account, according to the agreed statement of charges.

The one count of perjury relates to McCollum’s work as treasurer of the Baltimore County Victory Slate, a campaign account operated by James T. Smith Jr. (D), former two-term Baltimore County executive, circuit court judge and one-time top aide to disgraced former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh (D).

McCollum used money from that account to pay for personal expenses but did not report the transactions in required state reports that he signed under penalty of perjury.

Neither Bevins nor Smith had knowledge of the thefts before the investigation.

Prosecutors declined to comment on the case following the hearing.

“It is essential to the integrity of our elections that those who abuse positions of trust on political campaigns are held accountable,” said Maryland State Prosecutor Charlton T. Howard, III, in a statement issued after the hearing. “I’m proud of our office’s hard work in uncovering this extensive fraud and bringing the individual responsible to justice.”

Inside, David Irwin, one of McCollum’s attorneys, told Judge Robert E. Cahill, his client borrowed $125,000 — an amount recommended in the plea agreement — from family and friends to pay restitution to Bevins and the slate.

Irwin said the payments — $27,500 to the Baltimore County Victory Slate and $97,500 to Bevins’ campaign account — were made Wednesday from an escrow account “to show (McCollum’s) remorse and start his redemptive process.”

Irwin told reporters his client “made restitution and is glad to be able to put this matter behind him.”

Prosecutors plan to ask for as much as a year in jail.

Irwin asked Cahill to delay sentencing and consider work release as part of any sentence that includes jail time so that McCollum can continue to work to repay those who lent him money.

Irwin further asked Cahill to consider delaying the start of any jail sentence until after Labor Day as McCollum has a job that continues to the holiday.

Cahill agreed to schedule a sentencing hearing for July 31.

Outside the courtroom, Bevins said she was looking forward to regaining her strength following a series of cancer treatments. The former elected official said she had planned on spending her retirement volunteering at a local hospital and at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore — all delayed by her cancer diagnosis.

“When I’m better, that’s still my plan,” Bevins said.

She said she’s hoping for a clean bill of health following surgery and chemotherapy.

“Who doesn’t want to be in the zoo surrounded by animals all day long?” she said.

“I’d much rather surround myself with animals than people nowadays,” she said.