By Joe Beck
A woman accused of stealing more than $12,000 from the Bass-Hoover Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization while serving as its treasurer pleaded guilty to two counts of embezzlement Wednesday in Frederick County Circuit Court.
Catherine Martin, 40, faces up to 40 years in prison, 20 years on each count. Judge Clay Athey ordered a pre-sentence investigation and scheduled a sentencing hearing for May 15.
Authorities accused Martin of committing embezzlement from August 2011 to March 2012, a period during which the PTO lost a total of $12,403. Martin was the PTO treasurer in 2011 and part of 2012. She was indicted on Oct. 4.
The Frederick County Sheriff's Office began investigating Martin in May 2012 after a phone call from the PTO's president. The department collected pages of bank statements and receipts in building its case against Martin.
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Andrew M. Robbins noted Thursday there was no plea agreement in the case, and Martin had been "pretty cooperative from the outset" of the investigation.
"It's always good when somebody accepts responsibility for their actions," Robbins said. It's always good to see somebody stand up and take responsibility, and she did that."
Robbins said Martin had cited trouble paying some bills as the motive for using the PTO funds for herself.
Robbins said there was no link between Martin's crimes and another former Bass-Hoover PTO official who was sentenced in January to four years in prison on 15 counts of embezzlement.
Shawn Marie Bianco, also of Stephens City, embezzled $119,312 as a board member of the Bass-Hoover PTO, the Robert E. Aylor Middle School PTO and the Georgetowne Court Homeowners Association.
Bianco was originally charged with 26 counts but pleaded guilty to 15 as part of a plea agreement.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org