A former Victor Cullen Center employee pleaded guilty Wednesday to illegally using state credit cards to buy tons of seafood that were resold to local restaurants for a profit.
Douglas Allen Fairfax, 42, was charged in April with stealing more than $90,000 from the Department of Juvenile Services center in Sabillasville.
The seafood scheme was revealed Wednesday morning at a plea hearing before Judge Julie Stevenson Solt.
Fairfax, who was the center's dietary manager, used his state-issued credit card to purchase 7.5 tons of frozen crab legs and shrimp, which he later sold to local restaurants for a profit, according to the Maryland Attorney General's Office, which prosecuted the case.
The suspicious spending was flagged in April 2012 during a routine credit card audit by the Office of Legislative Audits, said Eric Solomon, spokesman for the Department of Juvenile Services.
The department's Office of the Inspector General then began its own investigation, he said.
An OIG audit concluded that Fairfax had used his state credit card to illegally purchase $316.32 worth of gift cards, $56,844.34 worth of "Alaskan crab snow clusters," $31,042.67 worth of shrimp and $3,240 worth of kitchen equipment.
"None of the Alaskan crab legs or shrimp were ever served to the youth or the staff at the facility, and the kitchen equipment could not be found on the premises," Solomon said. The department does not serve crab legs, and shrimp may be served only on occasion to children at DJS facilities.
The information was forwarded to the Attorney General's office once the audit was completed in May 2012, Solomon said.
He said he did not know where the gift cards were from.
David Paulson, spokesman for the attorney general's office, said he could not release the names of restaurants where Fairfax sold the products because they were not revealed in any court documents or during court proceedings. The Assistant Attorney General at Wednesday's hearing would not comment.
Fairfax, of Hagerstown, worked at the Cullen Center from July 4, 2007, to May 1, 2012, Solomon said.
Fairfax was charged with felony theft scheme of more than $10,000 but less than $100,000 between Jan. 18, 2011, and Feb. 29, 2012, according to court records.
The crime is punishable by a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a $15,000 fine.
After the theft was uncovered, the Department of Juvenile Services conducted a statewide audit of all department-issued credit card purchases. The audit revealed minor administrative issues, including record keeping, but did not reveal any fraud on the part of other DJS employees, Solomon said.
Also as a result of the Fairfax investigation, the department changed its supervision for credit card purchases. Previously, direct supervisors were responsible to review credit card purchases.
Now, the Statewide Food Service Manager at the department's headquarters is responsible for reviewing all food-related purchases and comparing those purchases with inventory, Solomon said.
The department also receives new reports issued directly from the bank when purchases are denied or are suspicious, Solomon said.
The Victor Cullen Center is a regional secure treatment center, serving up to 48 boys between the ages of 15 and 18.
Fairfax's attorney said Wednesday that he cannot comment until after the sentencing hearing, which is scheduled for July 31.
Follow Danielle E. Gaines on Twitter: @danielleegaines. ___