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Two accused of stealing $1.5 million from opticians

By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 10, 2010; 10:19 PM

The executive director and chief financial officer of a Fairfax County-based national association of opticians have been charged with embezzling more than $1.5 million, in a scheme in which they allegedly covered for each other's thefts for more than six years.

Since 1998, Hugh M. Robey, 48, of Bowie was the executive director of the American Board of Opticianry and the National Contact Lens Examiners, a nonprofit group on Loisdale Road in the Springfield area.

In 2003, he was joined by Carletta Carter Stewart, 45, of Fredericksburg, who served as the group's chief financial officer, according to James Morris, the lawyer for the two groups, which certify about 38,000 ophthalmic dispensers nationally.

Morris said Robey and Stewart were the two controllers of the association's finances, and that they collaborated to "artificially increase the expenses for the organization in order to take money off the top."

He said evidence indicated Stewart "may have discovered [Robey's] financial improprieties, and she may have used that to her advantage."

Officer Tawny Wright, a police spokeswoman, said Stewart wrote checks, credits and refunds to herself from January 2004 to July 2010.

Morris said that an internal complaint, separate from the financial issues, led the opticianry board to investigate Robey in January and fire him in March.

He was arrested on four counts of embezzlement in June, and the investigation into Robey uncovered Stewart's alleged theft, Morris said.

Stewart was fired in August. She turned herself in on Thursday, Wright said, to face seven counts of embezzlement, one for each year of the scheme.

The association has suffered in its ability to provide grants and scholarships and enhance testing for opticians and contact lens examiners, Morris said.

He said Robey and Stewart "constantly informed the board that there was much less money than there really was."

Robey pleaded guilty last month and is awaiting sentencing. His lawyer, James C. Clark, said Robey was "very remorseful for what happened, and he accepts full responsibility for what he did."

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