A former bail bondsman pleaded guilty in Baltimore Circuit Court yesterday to forging stolen court documents to win 17 defendants' temporary release from the Baltimore City Jail while bilking their families out of a total of $51,700.
Anthony Hill, 32, of the 3600 block of Howard Park Avenue pleaded guilty to 47 counts of conspiracy, forgery, theft, aiding in escape, obstruction of justice, handgun possession and other charges.
Sentencing was set for Feb. 6. Judge Hilary D. Caplan indicated that he would impose a 20-year term.
All 17 defendants -- mainly accused of drug offenses -- were rearrested on escape charges, but their families did not recover the money they paid Hill, prosecutor Jamey M. Hochberg said.
Hill carried off the scam between August and October in 1989 with the help of Angela Powell, a 25-year-old District Court clerk, according to a statement of facts presented by Ms. Hochberg.
Powell, of the 4500 block of Edgecombe Circle, stole blank release-from-commitment forms and an official District Court seal and gave them to Hill.
The bondsman forged the signatures of court officials or signed fictitious names on the forms and presented the phony bail documents at the City Jail to gain the defendants' release, the statement of facts said.
"That release-from-commitment form is the key to the jail," Ms. Hochberg said.
The District Court has since tightened its control over release forms and seals, said Judge Joseph A. Ciotola Sr., administrative judge for Baltimore. By January, the system will be computerized, he said.
Two of Hill's victims said they had no great hope of getting their money back.
Viola Kessler, 68, of the 2200 block of West Fayette Street paid Hill $8,000 from her savings to win her grandson's release.
"I got none of it back. I ain't got no more money no more," she said.
Ella Pope, 52, of the 2200 block of West Booth Street, who lives on monthly disability payments, withdrew $3,500 from savings to bail out her son.
"It has made me very cautious," she said. "I might try to take some kind of action to recoup the money, but if I don't, you win some, you lose some."
Powell pleaded guilty in July to her part in the scam and agreed to testify against Hill and others. In return, the prosecution has recommended a three-year prison term.
Three others have been charged in connection with the case: Lisa Slater Williams, 25, of the 2000 block of Linden Avenue, owner ofL & L Bail Bond Inc., where Hill had worked; Steven Kashif, 37, of the 2200 block of Lawnwood Circle, an L & L employee; and Gladys Williams, 49, of the 600 block of Hammershire Road, owner of Advantage Bail Bond Co.