Lawyer sentenced for bilking clients

September 03, 1992|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Staff Writer

A member of Hampden's unofficial first family, Theodore A. Cavacos grew from the kid who played in front of his father's drugstore on West 36th Street to become the neighborhood lawyer.

Now bankrupt and disbarred, Cavacos was sentenced yesterday to two years in prison after prosecutors said he stole more than $1 million from his clients -- many of them the estates of longtime Hampden residents.

"Your behavior confirmed what everyone wants to believe about lawyers," Baltimore Circuit Judge David B. Mitchell told Cavacos. "A lawyer steals from his clients and appears before me, he goes to jail."

Judge Mitchell sentenced Cavacos to 10 years in prison, with all but two suspended. As part of a plea agreement, Cavacos also agreed to pay almost $50,000 in restitution to two of his victims.

Prosecutors say Cavacos, as part of an effort to continue to expand his extensive North Baltimore real estate holdings, plundered at least 25 of his clients. He had also been indicted for enlisting investors for his rental properties -- and then failing to include them as owners and also cheating them on the promised 20 percent return. Those and other charges were dropped as part of the plea agreement.

Many of these investors came from the city's Orthodox Jewish community and were referred to Cavacos by his law clerk. That clerk, David E. Herman, received a five-month suspended sentence yesterday for his guilty plea to one count of felony theft.

After Cavacos pleaded guilty in July to two counts of felony theft, more and more victims were identified, putting the tally for the amount stolen over the seven-figure mark, said Elizabeth A. Ritter, an assistant state's attorney.

"He picked on the people who had no knowledge of how the legal system works, and he bilked them and bilked them and bilked them," Ms. Ritter told the court. "Most of them never understood they were even victims."

Like his father before him, Cavacos became a prominent citizen of Hampden, a working class neighborhood just west of the Johns Hopkins University. Cavacos' lawyer, P. Paul Cocoros, said: "If you were a resident of Hampden in the last 20 years and you had a problem, you went to Ted Cavacos."

In better times, Cavacos, 50, dished out free or inexpensive legal advice to those in the neighborhood, said a 62-year-old, lifelong Hampden resident between bites of a cold cut sub yesterday at D'Amici's Eat In & Carry Out at 36th Street and Hickory Avenue.

The man, who declined to give his name, said he had known Cavacos since he was a boy. "Ted's father was the unofficial mayor of Hampden," the man added.

Indeed, Andrew Theodore "Doc" Cavacos was more than just the proprietor of Cavacos Drugstore, a longtime landmark on West 36th at Roland Avenue until it closed several years ago. The man in the sub shop said the elder Cavacos was known for doing everything from smoothing over vandalism charges against neighborhood teen-agers to helping deliver votes for the Democratic machine.

A waitress and a regular at the Ye-Eat Shoppe Restaurant also confirmed that Theodore Cavacos is well-known in Hampden. "Ask anybody out on the street about him," said waitress Barbara Olszynski.

She offered less than glowing reviews of Cavacos' performance as a landlord. In fact, It was Cavacos' immersion in the real estate market -- Mr. Cocoros said his client still owns more than 100 properties -- and the economic downturn of the late 1980s that apparently led him to steal.

Cavacos, who was disbarred last October, said he has spent the past several months hustling to collect rent money to help pay back his victims.

But Ms. Ritter attempted to paint Cavacos as less concerned with his victims than his own luxuries. She said he stunned the owners of a jewelry store when he bought a $100,000 diamond ring a few years ago -- in cash.

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