Accountant to serve 60 days on work release Otis Comstock stole $100,000 from condo associations

January 20, 1993|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff Writer

When Hampstead accountant Otis K. Comstock bilked four condominium associations out of nearly $100,000 last year, he didn't use the cash to live what his lawyer called the high life.

"Mr. Comstock never took the money to better his lifestyle," the attorney, Wesley D. Blakeslee, told Circuit Judge Francis M. Arnold yesterday. "It's a sad story. Mr. Comstock bought into the notion popular with some that you can buy property with no money down. But it doesn't work that way."

As he sentenced Comstock to eight years in state prison, Judge Arnold took that into consideration.

"The easiest thing I could do is sentence Mr. Comstock to 15 years in the department of corrections and walk off the bench. I'm not saying he doesn't deserve it -- he does -- but that won't get your money back," he told a courtroom packed with members of the condo associations.

The judge suspended all but 60 days of the sentence, which will be served at the Carroll County Detention Center on work release.

Comstock's fall from respected accountant and businessman to convicted felon has taken its toll not only on the hundreds of homeowners out of the cash but on Comstock himself, his attorney said.

"Mr. Comstock is, in essence, penniless at this point," Mr. Blakeslee said. "We have a good individual sitting in court who has already been stripped of everything. This is a sad case of someone who was an up-and-coming businessman."

On Nov. 19, Comstock pleaded guilty to one count of felony theft as part of an extensive deal in which he agreed to have his real estate holdings sold to pay restitution.

At one time, his properties had a market value of about $600,000, according to the state Department of Assessments and Taxation.

Once sold, those properties will give Comstock about $50,000 with which to pay the condominium association, Mr. Blakeslee said in court yesterday.

As the judge handed down his sentence, many in the courtroom mumbled about how leniently they felt Comstock was being treated.

From the bench, the judge acknowledged that letters written to him in the case were running 37-8 for a harsh punishment, including a stiff jail sentence.

"They are incensed," the judge said of the writers. "And they have a right to be incensed. But he has been punished already. He won't be allowed to vote. He will be a convicted felon. He's lost a lot of respect and what dignity he's had has been stripped."

Mr. Blakeslee told the judge that Comstock is working as a management trainee at Domino's Pizza for about $5.50 an hour. He and his wife have four children. The family lives in a rented home.

Comstock wants to pay back all of the money he stole, Mr. Blakeslee said. More than $98,800 is owed to the condominium associations.

As a property manager for four Hampstead condominium associations for at least the past two years, Comstock was responsible, among other things, for collecting monthly dues, providing financial statements and preparing tax returns.

According to court records, Comstock stole money from the condominium associations' savings accounts and certificates of deposit and then falsified financial reports to the officers of the associations to cover his thefts.

Comstock has cooperated with prosecutors since July 24, when his businesses -- CFS Inc., Meko Realty and Comstock Financial Services -- were raided.

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