Theft, Forgery Charges Loom For Developer

January 13, 1991|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff writer

Steven R. Hankins, one of Harford's most active commercial developers during the late 1980s, was indicted Wednesday on charges that he forged the signature of an Ocean City subcontractor on a $68,700 mechanics lien and then cashed the lien through a bank.

Hankins, a Bel Air resident who lives on a 283-acre farm, was charged with two countsof theft and one count each of forgery and cashing a counterfeit document, an indictment handed down by a county grand jury shows.

The 38-year-old developer was taken into police custody on Wednesday. He was released on his own recognizance following a bond hearingin District Court.

Hankins declined comment last week.

His attorney, John W. Nowicki of Baltimore, said his client cooperated with the police investigation by providing his company's financial records. He added that Hankins offered to testify before the grand jury, take a lie-detector test and provide handwriting samples for analysis.

"They never did them and we wanted them to," said Nowicki, adding that Hankins will plead not guilty to the charges. "I think the guy's been wronged. That's what we intend to prove."

The charges were filed as a result of a 17-month investigation by the Bel Air Police Department that started when Phillip S. Bathon Jr., owner of Systems Electric Enterprises Inc. of Ocean City, filed a complaint about the lien.

The company had done work on a hotel Hankins' company was building in Ocean City.

Investigators contend Hankins forged Bathon's signature on the $68,700 lien. The document was then cashed through Sharon Savings and Loan Association/Household Bank, said William G. Christoforo Jr., an assistant county state's attorney handling the case.

The bank was the lender for the hotel Hankins' company was building in Ocean City.

The indictment says Hankins cashed the lien on April 29, 1989.

If convicted of all charges, Hankins faces up to 50 years in prison and $4,000 in fines, according to the indictment filed in county Circuit Court.

The indictment filed against Hankins ends a tedious investigation for Bel Air police that focused on the developer's financing for the Days Inn project, said John W. Harkins, a spokesman for the Bel Air Police Department.

"There was a lot of paperwork that had to be digested," Harkins said. "There were great volumesof it."

The money owed to Systems Electric was for the company's work on a 162-room Days Inn in Ocean City.

The hotel was developed by42nd Street Hotel Inc., a partner

ship controlled by Hankins. Hankins Development Corp., another company controlled by Hankins, was the project's general contractor.

The partnership averted a foreclosure auction of the hotel by filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last February. The partnership faced about $9 million in debts.

Systems Electric is one of six parties that have filed civil suits in Worcester County Circuit Court to collect money they claim Hankins and hiscompany owe them for work on the hotel.

Bathon, who made claims as an individual and for his corporation, filed the largest claim, $164,585. Bathon said in his claim that money is owed for electric fixtures, switches, wires and labor, Worcester court records show.

Hankins Development Corp. has developed a number of large commercial projectsin the county during the last decade.

In August, Hankins' CourtlandSquare office building on South Main Street in Bel Air was sold for $1.4 million at a foreclosure auction after Hankins defaulted on a $2million loan.

Courtland Square Inc., a corporation controlled by Hankins that owned the building, renovated the 26,000-square-foot building in early 1989. The company had averted two previously scheduled foreclosure sales.

Hankins averted a foreclosure auction on three more of his holdings, including his 283-acre farm estate east of Bel Air, by paying the balance on the mortgage on the properties in October.

Hankins and his wife, Susan, owed $205,000 on the properties, according to Circuit Court documents. The properties have a combined valueof nearly $1 million.

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