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A Leonardtown area man’s niece took his bank account checks from him because she feared he would be taken advantage of due to his mental state, according to court papers alleging a woman working at the bank did just that, taking $10,000 from his account.

Maria Juanita Nickerson, 54, ordered new checks for the PNC Bank customer’s account, while she worked as its Breton branch manager, charging papers allege, and a check against the customer’s account for that amount was written last March and deposited in Nickerson’s account.

“The check appears to be signed by the victim, but filled out by another party,” according to a charges application filed by Trooper Michael Parker of the Maryland State Police, assigned to St. Mary’s Bureau of Criminal Investigations. Two withdrawals totaling $9,000 later were made from Nickerson’s account.

Nickerson has been charged through a summons with illegally obtaining the property of a vulnerable adult, of more than $500. A conviction for the felony offense carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Nickerson could not be reached by phone this week at her home or the bank’s Breton branch. A corporate communications officer with the bank’s headquarters in Pittsburgh declined to comment on Nickerson’s employment status.

Nickerson admitted to the bank’s fraud investigators to “borrowing the money from the victim,” and she agreed to return the money to the customer’s account, the charges application states, adding that a bank investigator forwarded to police “an IOU, signed by the suspect, to the victim.”

The investigation began last April when St. Mary’s Social Services Department’s adult protection services contacted St. Mary’s detectives, court papers state, about the matter involving the bank customer, whose “decision-making abilities were impaired.” The bank customer told the law officer and the bank investigator that “he had never associated with the defendant personally, only professionally,” according to the charges application, and that because she had never been to his home, “he must have loaned her the money at the bank.”

jwharton@somdnews.com