This story was updated at 2:30 p.m. Aug. 20.
A former receptionist has been charged with conducting a four-year theft scheme while working in the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office.
Joyce Saunders, 58, of Frederick was the receptionist who received requests from people who wanted the office to serve civil complaints and subpoenas, said Lt. Col. Bruce Sherman, assistant sheriff.
Investigators say that instead of charging $40 for service of process by the sheriff’s office, however, Saunders would persuade people to instead hire her company to do the same thing for $80 to $100, according to a sheriff’s office news release.
Saunders is charged with conducting a theft scheme of more than $500. A criminal summons was issued Friday.
“They would ask her to arrange for service of process by the sheriff,” Sherman said. “She would then use some fictitious information to change their mind into hiring her to do the service of process at a higher fee.”
The scheme went on from January 2009 to May, according to charges filed in Montgomery County District Court. Following a complaint, the sheriff’s office opened an internal investigation, Sherman said.
James Shalleck, Saunders’ attorney, said she did nothing wrong. Shalleck said supervisors instructed Saunders to tell people asking for service of process that the sheriff’s office had a backlog, and it would take three weeks to a month to serve the papers.
If they couldn’t wait that long, Saunders would suggest a private process server, Shalleck said. If they asked for the name of a private company, Saunders would give them the card for her business, Eagle Eye J Process Servers, he said.
“If there was further discussion, it was not at the sheriff’s office,” Shalleck said.
Saunders served the papers on her own time and charged clients a fee, like any other private process server, Shalleck said. If Saunders’ company had not provided the service, the client would have gone to another one, he said.
“She’s terribly upset by this because she’s being accused of stealing money from the sheriff’s office, but these were services ... that could not be provided by the sheriff,” Shalleck said.
Sheriff Darren Popkin said his office does not have a backlog, and serves 80 percent of all the civil processes that come to the office. Processes are issued with 30- or 60-day expirations, depending on what court issues them. While some papers can be served within a couple of days, others may take longer, especially if the person being served lives out of town, Popkin said.
“Does it take sometimes three to four weeks to get a paper served? Sure,” he said. “... We are current on all those documents.”
A trial has been set for Oct. 7.