A Columbia man who ran an illegal car-leasing operation pleaded guilty yesterday in Baltimore County Circuit Court, becoming the first person to be convicted under Maryland's 1990 subleasing law.
Peter M. Stiltz, 50, of the 8700 block of Carriage Hills Drive, also pleaded guilty to the attempted theft of 123 motor vehicles. Under a plea agreement with prosecutors, he is expected to be sentenced to one year in jail and fined $6,000. Formal sentencing was scheduled for Aug. 31 before Judge Dana M. Levitz.
"To have the assurance that he's going to jail and the assurance that the new law is not going to be challenged on appeal [is] in the state's best interest," Karen J. Kruger, the assistant attorney general who prosecuted the case, said of the agreement.
The law requires a lender's approval before anyone who financed a new car through the lender can turn the vehicle over to another person to assume the payments -- making the foundation of Stiltz' entire operation illegal.
Stiltz, who owned the now defunct A&A Auto Rental and Leasing in the 5600 block of Baltimore National Pike, would seek out new car owners unable to make their payments and offer to relieve them of the payments by finding someone to lease the vehicle, prosecutors said.
The cars often were leased to people with poor credit histories, who paid monthly fees ranging from $500 to $7,000. But Stiltz often failed to keep up payments on the car loans -- leaving the vehicles subject to repossession and the original owners liable for any outstanding debt.
One of Stiltz's victims, Raymond Campbell, has filed a civil suit against him for $10,000.
Mr. Campbell agreed to lease his 1989 Mustang through Stiltz in February 1990 after checking the leasing business through the Better Business Bureau. The check came back clear because Stiltz frequently changed the name of his business, Mr. Campbell said.
Mr. Campbell said that within six months of the agreement, he discovered the car had been in an accident, and he was contacted by lawyers representing the other vehicle's owner.
But when Mr. Campbell went to the A&A office to end the sublease, he found the office had moved and there was no trace of Stiltz. The car was eventually located, needing $2,000 in repairs. Mr. Campbell said he managed to sell the car at a $3,000 loss.
"There's people out there who are losing more than I am," said Mr. Campbell, adding that he was dissatisfied with the plea agreement.