Prince George's County auditors investigating allegations that a former top aide in the Sheriff's Department embezzled funds from the department for 10 years have concluded that as much as $170,000 may be missing from department coffers.
Because of missing or improperly kept records, the auditors were not able to determine for sure if any money from the department was taken by the aide, Delores M. Carbrese, who committed suicide last July, shortly after the audit investigation began.
Carobrese spent 16 years working in the Sheriff's Department, including several years as the chief administrative aide to former sheriff Don Edward Ansell, who was indicted in 1977 and later acquitted of charges that he misappropriated funds.
Ansell has not been linked in any way to the current investigation, which began after Carobrese's estranged husband approached the current sheriff with allegations that his wife had taken as much as $100,000 from the department since she began working there.
The audit, which took nine months to complete, entered around the Sheriff's Department's role as the collection agency for the court system when it ordered a fine or other cost to be paid.
Delores Carobrese had complete control over all such payments from the time they were made to the Sheriff's Department and recorded, until they were deposited in the department's account.
After examining books handled by Carobrese, the auditors found that several thousand receipts were missing, record books were improperly kept and money mailed to the department to pay fines never was logged.
The auditors also found that Carobrese maintained a system of "double bookkeeping" in which some money coming into the office was only recorded on a few loose leaf sheets of paper kept in her desk instead of in official report ledger.
Auditors have said in the past that a system of double bookkeeping could have allowed Carobrese to take in money without officially recording it and to hold onto the money until the courts remembered to ask for payment.
At the time of her death, auditors found several thousands dollars in the office safe that had been entered only on her loose leaf record system.
Because of the double bookkeeping system and the many missing reocrds, the auditors found it impossible to determine conclusively how much money was missing or where those funds might be.
However, by examining the total revenues received by the Sheriff's Department through the collection of fines and other court-ordered costs between 1967 and 1979, when the current sheriff took over, the auditors found several abnormal dropoffs in collections.
Through complicated financial projections based on the number of cases before the courts and the amount of fines collected by the department in the past the auditors determined that anywhere from $80,000 to $170,000 may be missing from department coffers.
"The unexplained revenue short fall (of $80,000 to $170,000) is significant," the auditors wrote in their report submitted yesterday to the County Council. "However, interviews with acquaintances, family members and coworkers (of Carobrese), an examiniation of all available records, and conferences with the State's Attorney provided no clear evidence to support the allegations against the accused employe."
State's Attorney Arthur A. Marshall, whose office has been looking into the allegations since they first surfaces last summer, said his office has not yet finished its investigation.
"We are still trying to find out if there is any way we can find where the money went and if there if any possible area of prosecution," Marshall said.
Sheriff James V. Aluisi, who requested an audit of the entire department when he succeeded Ansell as sheriff, said yesterday that he has instituted many new recording procedures to prevent future bookkeeping "discrepancies."
Aluisi said he first became aware of "irregularities" in the way the Sheriff's Department had previously been administered when he and his aides, upon assuming office in 1978, were unable to locate many department records, including personal office files, from previous administration.
Many of those files, in particular, ones used in the state investigation and indictment of former Sheriff Ansell were ordered destroyed by Ansell just days before Aluisi became sheriff.