- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 31, 2008

HAGERSTOWN, Md. | A judge convicted the owner of a children’s cheerleading club Tuesday of six gambling charges stemming from allegations she used proceeds from a bingo fundraiser to repay a parent who had bailed her out of jail.

Anna L. Miles, 35, of Hagerstown, was sentenced to three years of unsupervised probation and ordered to pay a fine and court costs totaling $1,000. The misdemeanor charges each carried a maximum one-year jail term.

“I’m just glad it’s over,” Miss Miles said as she walked from the Washington County courtroom into the arms of supporters. But because of the convictions, she now faces the prospect of more than nine years in prison for violating her earlier probation for writing bad checks on the Hagerstown Heat All-Stars’ account.

The gambling charges raised ticklish issues in Washington County, where local fire-and-rescue companies have customarily held bingo and pull-tab events to help fund youth sports teams and charitable groups. Although state law permits fire-and-rescue companies to hold gambling events, they are supposed to use all proceeds to fund their operations.

Judge W. Kennedy Boone said from the bench that he was convicting Miss Miles reluctantly.

“This case is a hot-button case, no doubt about it,” Judge Boone said. “It’s a complicated case, and there’s a lot of political ramifications.”

Deputy State’s Attorney Joseph S. Michael said his office wasn’t targeting legitimate, nonprofit youth athletic clubs. But he said Miss Miles’ club is a for-profit business, and that she has repeatedly used the club’s money as her own - sometimes even canceling cheerleading events because she needed the cash herself.

He asked Judge Boone to bar Miss Miles from youth sports because “the minute she gets close to it, her hand goes in the till.” Judge Boone refused the request, which would have killed Miss Miles’ club.

Defense attorney Eric. B. Andrews maintained that the state was on a witch hunt because prosecutors were frustrated by their failure to prove forgery and theft charges against Miss Miles in 2005.

The gambling charges arose from a 2006 bingo and tip-jar event at the Boonsboro fire hall billed as a fundraiser for the Hagerstown Heat. When it was over, Assistant Coach Charles W. Buffington gave $2,000 in cash to Michelle Tapia, of nearby Chambersburg, Pa., who had lent Miss Miles that amount for bail in December 2005, Miss Tapia testified.

Miss Miles had been jailed for failing to make court-ordered restitution to some victims of $24,000 worth of bad checks she had written on the Hagerstown Heat’s account in 2003 and 2004. Miss Miles, a bartender, eventually repaid all the money.

Mr. Buffington and another cheerleader parent, Suzette N. Durbarow, who helped arrange the event, pleaded guilty last year to gambling infractions and received probation before judgment, meaning the convictions would eventually be expunged.

The county gaming commission fined the Boonsboro Fire Co. $1,500 and suspended its gambling operations for 60 days for hosting the event. Gaming Director James B. Hovis said the case also prompted his office to send a letter to all of the county’s fire departments, reinforcing that they were to be the sole beneficiaries of any funds derived from gambling.

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