“A former employee of a yacht brokerage and charter service business, accused of bilking hundreds of thousands of dollars from her bosses, pleaded guilty earlier this month to conducting a theft scheme over the course of seven years and to three counts of forgery. As part of the agreement struck between Jennifer Lorae Edwards and the Office of the Kent County State’s Attorney, Edwards will pay back $367,297.94 to Edward and Robin Kurowski, owners of Gratitude Boat Sales in Rock Hall.
Edwards, 32, entered her guilty pleas July 10 in a re-arraignment before Judge William S. Horne in the Circuit Court of Kent County. A tearful Edwards told the court that she was pleading guilty because it was in her best interest. Sentencing is September 3. Until then, Edwards remains jailed in the Kent County Detention Center in lieu of $100,000 bond. In April, a grand jury indicted Edwards on multiple counts of theft, forgery and conducting a theft scheme, a total of 51 counts. She pleaded guilty to conducting a theft scheme that began January 1, 2002 and continued through February 2009.
On February 26, Robin Kurowski told police that Edwards was writing checks payable to herself and documenting that the money went to vendors or other people. Edwards did not have an invoice number for these checks and that is how Kurowski initially discovered the scheme. Until February 25 of this year, Edwards handled monetary transactions for the business. Her title was “”executive assistant.”” She lived on Lawton Avenue in Rock Hall across the street from Gratitude Boat Sales in a home owned by the Kurowskis and had been their employee for more than 12 years.
The Kurowskis were in court to hear Edwards plead guilty on July 10, but did not speak. Edwards stood at the defense table with attorney Stefan Skipp. She was handcuffed and shackled and wore a prison uniform. In exchange for Edwards’ guilty pleas, State’s Attorney Robert H. Strong Jr. dismissed the remaining charges. The plea agreement does not commit Strong to a sentencing recommendation. The maximum penalty for forgery is 10 years in jail and a $1,000 fine. The maximum penalty for conducting a theft scheme is 15 years in jail and a $25,000 fine.