WESTMINSTER -- The state's attorney has frozen the bank accounts of 10 Hampstead homeowners associations as part of an investigation into the financial dealings of a Hampstead accountant and businessman.
The frozen accounts total more than $30,000 and represent monthly dues payments by hundreds of Hampstead home and condominium owners, State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman said yesterday.
Investigators from the Maryland State Police and from Mr. Hickman's office raided the offices of Otis K. Comstock Sr. on Friday, seizing financial records relating to his businesses -- CFS Inc., Meko Realty and Comstock Financial Services. Mr. Comstock is said to be a manager of the 10 homeowners' associations.
"This is a very unusual situation," Mr. Hickman said. "We've never had a case in Carroll County with so many potential victims."
And while there have been no charges filed in the week-old probe, the state's attorney took the unusual step of notifying the public of the investigation during a news briefing yesterday in his Court Street office.
"We normally don't hold press conferences when an investigation is continuing, but we need to inform these people of where to send their dues checks," he said. "We're trying to get this thing through without a hitch and without hurting the homeowners associations."
The investigation began on July 20, after a tip from Carroll Sheriff John H. Brown about possible problems with Mr. Comstock, the state's attorney said.
Investigators obtained a court order -- signed Friday by Circuit Judge Francis M. Arnold -- to raid Mr. Comstock's Black Rock Road office. He was not present.
Calls to his office yesterday were answered by a machine; attempts to reach Mr. Comstock at his home were unsuccessful.
Mr. Hickman said he hopes to have the investigation completed by the end of the year.
Other than announcing the investigation and the freezing of the bank accounts, Mr. Hickman provided few details. He declined to say what crimes are suspected, except that in cases like these, theft charges often are filed.
RTC The frozen accounts -- in two undisclosed county banks -- belong to Hampstead Valley Associates, Roberts Fields Condo Association, Hampstead Property Association, Hampstead Valley Townhomes Condominium, Hampstead Valley Townhouse Association, Hampstead Valley Garden Condo Inc., Hampstead Townhouse Condominium Inc., The Fields Homeowners Association, Hampstead Property Association Condo, and Roberts Fields Condo Inc.
A president of one of the associations expressed surprise and confusion at the news yesterday, saying that, aside from a preliminary conversation several months ago, his group hasn't had any contact with Mr. Comstock.
"When we were looking to change management, we talked to Otis a couple of months ago," said Wayne Thomas, president of The Fields Homeowners Association. "We decided not to use him."
Mr. Thomas said his association has been managed by Village Management, a Baltimore company with no apparent ties to Mr. Comstock.
Anyone who is a member of the associations or who deals with Mr. Comstock can attend a meeting at 6:30 tomorrow night at North Carroll High School, where homeowners will have a chance to find out how the investigation will affect them.
Officers and directors of the associations have been asked to establish new bank accounts and new addresses so homeowners can continue to send dues payments. Mr. Hickman said that if homeowners haven't mailed their checks to Mr. Comstock's office, they should wait to find out their association's new address.