Steven R. Hankins, one of Harford's leading commercial developers inthe 1980s, was sentenced to six months in jail Friday on charges that he cashed a forged $68,700 mechanic's lien for one of his subcontractors.
Hankins, a Bel Air resident who lives on a 283-acre farm, was sentenced in Circuit Court after filing a plea agreement in the case, which involves work on a 162-room Days Inn built in Ocean City three years ago.
"The message must be sent out that this won't be tolerated," Circuit Judge William O. Carr said while issuing his sentence.
Carr sentenced Hankins to five years in jail, with all but six months suspended. Hankins also must complete 100 hours' of community service and four years' of probation.
Hankins, who raises horses at his farm, will be eligible for work release while serving his sentence at the county detention center. He is to start the sentence April 10.
The 38-year-old developer was indicted in January 1991 on two counts of theft and one count each of forging and cashing a counterfeit document following a 17-month investigation by Bel Air police.
As part of the plea agreement, Hankins did not admit guilt to the charge of cashing a counterfeit document, but agrees the prosecution has enough evidence for a conviction. The prosecution, meanwhile, dropped the forgery and two theft charges.
The police investigation started when Phillip S. Bathon Jr., owner of Systems Electric Enterprises Inc. of Ocean City, filed a complaint about the lien for his work on the Days Inn.
Assistant State's Attorney William G. Christoforo Jr. contendedthat Hankins submitted a lien in Bathon's name to Sharon Savings andLoan Association for $68,700 in April 1989.
The bank forwarded the money to Hankins to pay Bathon, but the developer traced or copied Bathon's signature on the lien and later cashed it, Christoforo said.
Defense attorney John W. Nowicki of Baltimore said Hankins put the money for the subcontractor into the hotel project and did not keepany of it for himself.
The Hankins partnership that developed thehotel filed for bankruptcy in February 1989, listing $9 million in debts. Another Hankins partnership filed for bankruptcy in July 1990, with $10.6 million in debts for the Aberdeen Marketplace shopping center.
Hankins and his wife, Susan, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court last August, listing $29 million in debts owed to 118 creditors.
In addition, Hankins has lost a number of his holdings during foreclosure auctions after defaulting on bank loans. He averted a foreclosure auction on three holdings, including his estate east of Bel Air, by paying the balance on the properties in October 1990.