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Maryland delegate charged with theft of state funds

An outgoing Republican lawmaker is accused of theft of state funds.

Del. Rick Impallaria, a five-term Republican representing Harford and Baltimore counties, was charged in Anne Arundel County Circuit court.

Impallaria faces seven counts including theft of more than $92,000 in state funds over a decade to pay for space he claimed was for a district office. He also faces charges for using a credit for office furniture for that district office to pay for campaign mailings.

Legislative sources said Impallaria had been under investigation for sometime and noted that prior to the most recent session, the delegate was issued new computers because investigators had seized his state-issued equipment.

The charges were filed Wednesday by the Office of the State Prosecutor.

According to charges filed in court, Impallaria contracted to rent a cottage at 4 Punte Lane in Essex in 2012. The delegate claimed the eastern Baltimore County building, which was not in the district he represented, would be used as a district office. Impallaria rented the cottage next door for personal use under a lease he signed in 2002.

The lease was drafted by someone identified by prosecutors only as “GL,” who is further identified in court records as “Impallaria’s tenured legislative aide, who herself is a member” of the Vleck family that owns the Punte Lane cottages.

Click this image to see the charging documents.

Click this image to see the charging documents.

That lease initially called for $700 per month — double the rent paid by other tenants on Punte Lane. The rent on that property increased $50 per month on six of the seven cottages on the property in 2015. In 2016, the rent increased by $100 on the seventh property — the one rented by Impallaria as his district office.

The General Assembly began paying rent on the alleged district office in July 2012. At the same time, Impallaria allegedly stopped paying rent on the cottage he had been renting for more than decade for personal use even though he maintained use of both cottages.

Prosecutors said a search of the district office space last September revealed that the property was “used to store Impallaria’s personal items” including bedroom furniture, folding beds, pellet rifles and ammunition, building materials and campaign materials, skis and coolers.

Prosecutors also allege that Impallaria falsified office supply orders for the district office and used the money to pay for campaign materials.

In a statement of charges, prosecutors allege Impallaria “instructed his chief of staff to submit two lists” to an office supply vendor. “One list was to contain office supplies that would actually be ordered and the other was to contain higher priced office furniture, which would be paid for by Impallaria and reimbursed by the General Assembly, but never actually ordered, thus creating a credit with the vendor.”

Impallaria allegedly received more than $2,400 from the General Assembly as a reimbursement for the furniture he never actually ordered. The payment became a credit he then allegedly used in the fall of 2019 to partially pay for two campaign mailings used to solicit donations to his re-election effort.

Impallaria faces five charges related to the alleged property rental scheme including two counts of misconduct in office, theft of $44,100 for rent payments for 5 Punte Lane. He also faces a charge of misappropriation by a fiduciary for the use of $92,800 in state funds for the alleged district office property on Punte Lane.

Impallaria faces three additional charges related to the use of state funds for the campaign mailers including misconduct in office, theft of $2,405.30 to pay for the mailings and fraudulent misappropriation by a fiduciary.

Impallaria faces more than two decades in prison and fines up to $25,000 for four of the seven charges. The three counts of misconduct in office carry a penalty of “anything not cruel and unusual.”

Impallaria did not respond to a request for comment.

“Delegate Impallaria has been aware of these allegations for some time,” Steven Silverman, a partner at Silverman Thompson Slutkin White, who is representing Impallaria.  “My firm has investigated the State Prosecutor’s version of facts as alleged in the indictment. We have interviewed over a dozen witnesses and the relevant documents. I can say in no uncertain terms that Delegate Impallaria has not violated the law as alleged.”

This is not Impallaria’s first scrape with the law.

Impallaria had more than two dozen criminal cases on his record — many dismissed or not prosecuted — at the time of his first campaign in 2002. The most egregious included four counts of assault with intent to murder in a 1982 incident in Harford County in which Impallaria was accused of attempting to use his car to run down his mother and brother.

In 2017, he was jailed for two days for a drunken driving conviction in Ocean City. The judge suspended the balance of the 60-day sentence.

Impallaria’s relationship with the Punte Lane property and its owners, including his closest legislative aide, dates back to his rise as a populist politician on the east side of Baltimore County.

In 2002, Impallaria was the owner of a body shop at the headwaters of the Middle River. His property and a number of others in the Essex-Middle River and Randallstown areas had been specifically targeted as part of a redevelopment plan backed by then County Executive Dutch Ruppersberger.

Ruppersberger went to Annapolis and with the help of Sen. Michael Collins, a political force hailing from the Essex area, passed Senate Bill 509 in 2000. The bill targeted those properties Ruppersberger and Collins described as slums and blighted including Impallaria’s shop as well as homes on Punte Lane including a 10-room stone rancher and 10 waterfront cottages sometimes colloquially referred to as “shore shacks.”

The bill, which was signed into law, allowed the county to force owners from their properties using eminent domain, paying in some cases a fraction of the value. Those properties could be sold or given to developers for redevelopment.

Impallaria and others including then Dels. Diane DeCarlo and Jim Ports, a Democrat and Republican respectively, and an army of average citizens forced the eminent domain law to referendum. The bill was soundly defeated at the ballot box by a 4-1 margin and made eminent domain a four letter word in Baltimore County.

The referendum victory turned blue-collar Impallaria into a working-class hero of sorts and catapulted him into the House of Delegates where he was mostly a backbench Republican.

Georgeann Lynch, the daughter of the owner of the Punte Lane property and cottages later went on to become Impallaria’s legislative aide and his campaign manager.

Impallaria was redistricted this year. He found himself on the losing end of a primary battle with incumbent Republican Del. Lauren Arikan.