Ex-delegate Woods receives probation in theft of $58,000

April 23, 1991|By Joel McCord | Joel McCord,Sun Staff Correspondent

ANNAPOLIS -- Former state Delegate Sylvania W. Woods Jr. of Prince George's County was placed on five years' probation yesterday after he admitted stealing more than $46,000 from three cellular phone companies and at least $12,000 from his own campaign committee.

Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Raymond G. Thieme Jr. also ordered Woods, 37, former chairman of the 21-member House delegation for Prince George's County, to repay the telephone companies almost $15,000 after he pleaded guilty to two counts of theft and one count of misconduct in office.

A. Thomas Krehely, assistant state prosecutor, said Woods already had returned about $31,000 to the companies. He still owes $10,750 to GTE Mobile Communications Inc. and $4,246 to Bell Atlantic Mobile Systems Inc.

Mr. Krehely said prosecutors did not demand restitution of the money to the campaign fund because "there was nobody for him to pay it back to."

Neither Woods nor his lawyers would comment after the hearing, which was held in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court because many of the fraudulent sales to which Woods admitted were generated from his House of Delegates office here.

A statement of facts submitted with yesterday's plea said Woods submitted more than 200 fraudulent applications for cellular phone equipment and service to the three telephone companies between January 1988 and January 1991, collecting more than $46,000 in fees and commissions.

Among those listed on the applications as purchasers were colleagues of Woods' in the General Assembly who neither requested nor received the equipment or air time, the statement revealed.

In addition, Woods used state equipment, supplies and letterhead stationery to make it appear as if the orders were government-related, bypassing the usual credit checks, the statement said.

The former delegate and his lawyers, Rosalyn E. Pugh and Herman C. Dawson, waited for almost an hour as Judge Thieme disposed of a lengthy docket of offenders who failed to show up for trial and other plea bargains.

When it came his turn, Woods stood between the lawyers, answering the judge's standard questions in a low, steady voice. "Yes, your honor," he said when asked whether he understood the charges. "No, your honor," he replied when asked if he had been threatened or coerced into pleading guilty.

Ms. Pugh asked Judge Thieme to consider Woods' 12 years of service in the General Assembly, in which he "gave unselfishly to the people of his district" before he "ran into financial difficulties" in 1987 that led to the scheme.

Woods abruptly resigned his seat Jan. 29, days before he was to be sworn in for a fourth term, without any explanation.

Mr. Krehely said prosecutors did not seek jail time because of the resignation and because Woods, the son of a District Court judge, cooperated with their investigation once he was confronted.

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