An Annapolis chauffeur arrested by the FBI on Friday in connection with the alleged theft and forgery of checks was charged yesterday with killing his employer, Anne Arundel County police said.
The chauffeur, who apparently cashed checks routinely for his elderly employer, was believed to have waited at least 10 minutes before calling for medical help after he and his employer fell down a flight of stairs during a fight that began when the employer confronted the chauffeur about the checks, police said.
Cheng-Chi Lee, 32, of 1715 Westminster Way was charged with first-degree murder in the June 24 death of Horace James Donnelly Jr., 85, a former Washington lawyer who was managing family real estate holdings in Annapolis.
Sgt. Thomas Suit of the Anne Arundel County Police Department said his agency and the FBI conducted an investigation in which they concluded that Lee was involved in the alleged theft and forgery of Donnelly's personal checks.
Suit said that Anne Arundel police developed information that led to the murder charge through financial records that the FBI had been investigating.
The FBI declined to give details of its investigation, saying only that the allegedly stolen and forged checks had been taken from Maryland to the District.
The FBI said Friday that Lee had been charged with interstate transportation of stolen property. Lee is expected to be arraigned tomorrow in federal court on charges of theft and forgery of more than $180,000 in checks belonging to Donnelly, Suit said.
Police say they believe that Donnelly, who managed family real estate holdings in the Bay Ridge area of Annapolis, was alerted by his bookkeeper that there was a discrepancy in his personal finances.
The bookkeeper told police that Donnelly agreed to confront his chauffeur about the discrepancies because the chauffeur apparently cashed checks for the elderly Donnelly, authorities said.
Suit said that an argument apparently ensued June 22 when Donnelly confronted the chauffeur at the top of a stairwell in his Bay Ridge home. A fight apparently broke out in which the two men tumbled down the basement stairwell.
Police said they believe that while Donnelly lay on the floor with head injuries, the chauffeur waited at least 10 minutes before calling for medical help.
Donnelly was taken to University of Maryland Hospital Center, where he died two days later.
Police say they believe that the chauffeur went on a check-cashing spree in which at least $50,000 worth of forged checks were cashed in Donnelly's name after Donnelly's death.
Lee's family in Annapolis declined to comment.
Suit said Lee was being held without bond in the Anne Arundel County Correctional Facility and is expected to come to Washington tomorrow.