Alan Christian, the one-time talk show host whose dream of building a radio empire ended in criminal prosecution and bankruptcy, received a five-year suspended sentence yesterday in Baltimore Circuit Court and was ordered to pay $679,894 in restitution.
Grace Starmer, one of his partners, was given the same five-year suspended sentence and is also responsible for ensuring that the money will be paid.
Both pleaded guilty in October to embezzlement and violating the Maryland Securities Act. They will be under house arrest for nine months and will have to perform 1,500 hours of community service at the Maryland Food Bank.
Starmer did not speak at yesterday's sentencing hearing, but Christian made a public apology to those who invested in his dream.
"Unfortunately, there were a lot of people in Baltimore who believed me in pursuing that dream, and it turned into a nightmare for them," he said. "Now that the case is resolved, we're looking forward to putting our lives back together."
Though Christian and Starmer were placed on five years' probation, their probation could be extended if they need more time to repay the money they owe. More than 800 Marylanders invested in Atlantic Coast Radio Inc., the company upon which Christian had hoped to build his empire.
From June 1988, when Christian was fired from WFBR radio in Baltimore, to November 1989, when complaints by investors reached the office of the Maryland securities commissioner, Christian and his associates tried to raise enough money to build Atlantic Coast Radio. Though the money was initially deposited in an escrow account, Christian and his associates soon started dipping into the account and had taken out all of the money by the spring of 1989.
Christopher J. Romano, one of the assistant attorneys general who prosecuted the case, said the crimes of Christian and Starmer "were incredibly dumb."
Judge Edward J. Angeletti, who sentenced the pair, described their financial disaster as "a sinkhole."
"The deeper you got into it, the more you sank until you were sucked up," said Judge Angeletti.