Dennis Powell, who until two months ago was Philadelphia's district director of the state Board of Probation and Parole, did yesterday what an accused thief should do.

He paid up.

Powell, who recently resigned after parole board executives discovered he was a former fugitive with an arrest record, cut a check for $4,901.20. That was the amount that he owed in connection with a two decades-old theft and forgery case against him.

Powell was scheduled to appear this morning in Northumberland County Court at a contempt hearing for failing to pay restitution.

Sarah Billow, cost-collection director in Northumberland County, said that Powell's certified check arrived around 3 p.m. yesterday. He called her to confirm that she had received it. His hearing was then cancelled, she said.

Powell could not be reached for comment yesterday. The only contact information he provided the court was a P.O. box number in Pottstown.

In his top parole job, Powell oversaw dozens of probation and parole officers who supervise thousands of criminals in the Philadelphia area. Powell held the job until late October when his past caught up with him.

His case goes back to the late 1980s when he was a manager for ITT Financial Corp., a loan company with offices in Scranton and in Sunbury, Northumberland County.

Prosecutors accused him of making loans to fictitious people and stealing loan payments given to him by ITT customers. Powell pocketed about $5,300, authorities allege.

He was charged with 29 counts, both felonies and misdemeanors, including theft, forgery, misapplication of entrusted property and tampering with records.

Instead of facing charges, Powell went on the lam and a judge issued a warrant for his arrest in 1990. While still a fugitive, the state Department of Public Welfare hired him to work in its office of Fraud Abuse Investigation and Recovery.

Authorities picked him up on a fugitive warrant in 1997. He spent 10 days behind bars before posting bail. At the time, he pleaded not guilty. His defense attorney later asked prosecutors to drop the criminal charges in exchange for paying restitution. But Powell never paid the restitution.

A year later, while his criminal case was pending, Powell was hired as a state parole agent in the board's Norristown office. Powell's superiors repeatedly promoted him.

In a Nov. 12 Daily News article, parole board officials declined to explain how Powell got through its criminal background check.

Yesterday's restitution payment officially settles Powell's debt in connection with the theft and fraud case.