SNOW HILL, Md. (AP/WBOC)- A former middle school teacher has pleaded guilty to charges that she embezzled $433,000 from the Maryland State Education Association and the National Education Association.
Denise Inez Owens of Ocean Pines admitted she stole the money from the union to finance her gambling addiction.
Jamie Scott of Neward, Md. said he can't believe that an educator who has taught for many years could commit such a crime.
"It kind of bothers me that we are entrusting our kids with these teachers and some of them feel the need to steal the money from their other fellow teachers," Scott said.
Prosecutors said Owens visited casinos in Delaware more than 600 times over a 3-year period and gambled more than $1 million.
The 58-year-old Owens apologized for her actions in court Tuesday, saying she knew she was wrong from the minute she started stealing. She said she was relieved to have been caught.
Some other parents like Kathryn Danners of Berlin said the punishment of two years in prison does not fit the crime.
"I don't think the consequences of two years is adequate, but I think that we just have to take them as we get them and take care of them," she said.
Holly Owes of Ocean Pines said that at one point her children had Owens as their teacher. She said the news of Owens' actions came in as a shock to her and her family.
"I feel sorry for other teachers because they work so hard and the Worcester County teachers that I have dealt with over the years have been so amazing in the schools, so it is sad that because of someone's greed they are losing their money," Owes said.
In addition to the sentence, a judge ordered Owens to repay $211,000. Her attorney, Robert Marvel Jr., said Owens has already paid back about $195,000.