4 condo associations bilked, state says Loss is $90,000

accountant probed

August 02, 1992|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff Writer

HAMPSTEAD -- Four condominium associations representing more than 150 homeowners have been bilked out of as much as $90,000 since 1989, the state's attorney said last week as he revealed more details of his 2-week-old investigation of a Black Rock Road accountant and businessman.

In a meeting with more than 100 of those homeowners Thursday, State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman promised to "go after whatever we can" to pay back the condo associations.

Mr. Hickman began investigating Otis K. Comstock Sr. on July 20, when Carroll Sheriff John H. Brown was told of possible financial wrongdoing. Investigators from the Maryland State Police and Mr. Hickman's office raided Mr. Comstock's business July 24, seizing "filing cabinets" full of financial information.

They also froze more than 30 bank accounts at two undisclosed county banks. And while Mr. Hickman originally named the holders of those accounts as 10 different condominium associations, only four associations are now believed to be affected.

No charges have been filed against Mr. Comstock, who is said to be cooperating with the investigation. Mr. Comstock could not be reached for comment late last week.

Mr. Comstock's businesses -- CFS Inc., Meko Realty and Comstock Financial Services -- are included in the investigation.

During a meeting with more than 100 homeowners Thursday night, Mr. Hickman outlined the extent of the financial loss. Most in the audience gasped when the state's attorney told them exactly how much money he suspected had been stolen from the accounts of the associations.

One of the avenues open to prosecutors, Mr. Hickman said during the meeting, was to seize Mr. Comstock's assets, including real estate, cars and bank accounts.

But he cautioned that restitution may not be forthcoming any time soon and that there is a chance prosecutors may not be able to recover all that was stolen.

While a listing of Mr. Comstock's assets was not available, records with the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation show eight properties -- five Hampstead condominiums and three Westminster homes -- among his land holdings. The state has put a market value on the properties of nearly $600,000.

The homeowners were told Thursday that their accounts -- holding a combined $35,000 -- could be unfrozen within a month or so. Mr. Hickman urged the associations to set up new bank accounts, to hire a new manager and to direct members to send their monthly dues checks to a new address.

Mr. Comstock was hired to manage the affairs of Roberts Fields Condo Association Inc.; Hampstead Properties, a Condominium Inc.; Hampstead Valley Townhomes Condominium Inc.; and Hampstead Valley Garden Condominiums Inc. His was the only signature required to disburse funds for the associations.

The financial wrongdoing appears to hit certificates of deposit and savings accounts held by the associations, Mr. Hickman said.

Announcing an ongoing investigation to the public is an unusual move. But prosecutors were more interested in trying to stave off further financial losses to the associations.

"We usually have to find out why the ship has sunk and who was responsible," Mr. Hickman said of white-collar criminal investigations. "But in this case, we needed to move fast so we could prevent the ship from sinking."

Mr. Hickman said he hopes to finish the investigation by the end of the year. He would not speculate of what types of criminal charges may be forthcoming but, in response to a question, he said that his office will be seeking more than just restitution.

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