March 14, 2014

Tri Delta theft suspect was ‘counseled’ about behavior

Sorority officials knew that Carla Rae Seals and her husband, Mark Jason Stroface, showed up at the office at odd hours, an Arlington investigator wrote in the arrest warrant affidavit.

A trusted four-year employee at the Delta Delta Delta sorority’s national headquarters who is accused of stealing almost $400,000 worth of gold pins had been “counseled” about showing up at work after hours with her husband, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

Carla Rae Seals, 42, and Mark Jason Stroface, 41, were arrested Wednesday. They face felony theft charges in the disappearance of 1,970 gold pins valued at $200 each from offices in the 2300 block of Brookhollow Plaza Drive.

The heirloom sorority pins were 10- to 14-karat gold and decorated with diamonds, sapphires, pearls or other stones, according to affidavits. It is a tradition that when older sorority members die, their families return the pins to Delta Delta Delta, and they are stored with their names and chapter numbers.

The pins were in a storage closet that contained several locked cabinets.

Arlington police are not certain about the time frame for the thefts.

“We’re not sure if a few were taken a year ago, or this last time a large number went missing,” said Tiara Ellis Richard, a police spokeswoman.

Seals and Stroface were in the Arlington Jail on Friday night, with bail set at $100,000 each.

Seals has convictions for fraud, forgery and theft. Seals and Stroface were arrested in 2008 on suspicion of forging two drug prescriptions.

The arrest warrant affidavit says co-workers knew that Seals had financial problems.

And sorority officials “counseled” Seals about bringing her husband to the office and showing up at “strange hours,” according to arrest warrant affidavits obtained Friday by the Star-Telegram.

According to the Delta Delta Delta Facebook page, Seals was the go-to person for ordering replacement pins.

Tri Delta officials learned in early February that some pins were missing from the desk of Nelda Lee LeCompte after she returned from a one-week vacation, affidavits state. LeCompte helps document the stars-and-crescent pins and sat next to Seals on the second floor of the sorority’s main building.

Beth Dees Applebaum, who is responsible for maintaining the pin inventory, told police that they did not file a report initially because she believed that “the badges would ‘turn up eventually.’ ”

When she found that more were missing from storage bins Feb. 27, police were notified.

Video evidence

Applebaum told police that several months had passed since she checked the storage bins. Applebaum is the only person who organizes the bins and realized that a spare key was missing, according to affidavits.

Arlington detectives found several instances in January when the building’s burglar alarm was deactivated and reactivated late at night and early in the morning, most recently on Feb. 26.

Surveillance videos showed Seals and Stroface entering the building shortly before midnight Feb. 25 and leaving 15 minutes later. Stroface had something under his jacket, the affidavits state.

Stroface’s fingerprints were found on a pin storage drawer, and the after-hours access code was traced to Seals.

‘Deeply saddened’

Richard said a “handful of pins” were found and given back to the sorority. Detectives are trying to find more.

Applebaum declined to speak to the Star-Telegram and referred a reporter to marketing director Holly Thompson. Thompson did not return several phone calls and did not respond to an email.

On Thursday, Tri Delta President Phyllis Durbin Grissom posted a letter on the sorority’s website that said Seals was placed on leave without pay pending the outcome of the investigation.

“We are deeply saddened to learn that the theft may have involved one of our own staff members,” Grissom said.

Delta Delta Delta has reviewed internal procedures and added security measures, the website says.

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