Retired trooper finds $20 loan hard to collect CARROLL COUNTY

August 31, 1993|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff Writer

Stop if you've heard this one before.

A guy walks up to you and says he needs $20 to pay a tow truck driver who won't tow his wife's car out of a river until he gets paid. The guy swears he'll repay the money tomorrow.

Most people probably wouldn't dig into their pocket and hand over the cash. But that's exactly what Donald Allen Newcomer -- a retired Maryland state trooper -- did when Kevin Steven Plopi approached him at his Marriottsville farm March 14 and asked for help.

Mr. Plopi, 33, of Randallstown, didn't return to repay the $20. So, Mr. Newcomer's son, Tfc. Joseph Newcomer, filed a misdemeanor theft charge against Mr. Plopi.

"I loaned him the 20 bucks, I didn't give him the 20 bucks," Donald Newcomer said yesterday, during Mr. Plopi's bench trial on the theft charge. "I kept telling him I wanted my money back, that I was tired of chasing $20 around."

If Mr. Newcomer wants to see his money again, he'll have to keep chasing Mr. Plopi, who Carroll Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. found not guilty of theft.

"I think the defendant may be a deadbeat, but I can't convict him of theft," the judge said, after hearing almost an hour of testimony and closing arguments.

According to testimony and court records, Mr. Plopi approached Joseph Newcomer, who was off-duty and doing chores on his father's farm, and said he wanted to borrow a tractor. He was told that none of the tractors on the farm was available, so Mr. Plopi told Joseph Newcomer that he needed $14 to pay a tow-truck driver.

He said his wife had driven her car into Piney Run, and a tow truck driver refused to tow her and the car out of the water until he was paid, the trooper testified.

After getting nowhere with Joseph Newcomer, Mr. Plopi approached Donald Newcomer, who was working in a garage. He repeated the story, asked for $20, and said he was good for the money, Donald Newcomer testified.

"He said he knew my [other] son Joel," the elder Mr. Newcomer said.

Deputy State's Attorney Edward M. Ulsch said Donald Newcomer had "a big heart" and gave Mr. Plopi the money.

After nearly two weeks of waiting for repayment, Donald Newcomer called Mr. Plopi on the phone. Mr. Plopi was "rude" and used profanity when the retired trooper asked about his $20, testimony showed.

"He broke his promise, he may have broken his honor, but he did not violate the law," said Mr. Plopi's attorney, Richard W. Winelander.

But apparently Donald Newcomer is not the first person to lend Mr. Plopi money after hearing the wife-in-trouble story.

As Mr. Plopi was ready to leave the courtroom yesterday, Trooper Newcomer arrested him on a Baltimore County warrant, court officials said.

Carroll State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman said Mr. Plopi has several open cases in Baltimore County "involving the same scam."

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