Authorities issue arrest warrant for missing executive Charter Group car, money are gone

October 16, 1993|By Patricia Meisol | Patricia Meisol,Staff Writer

Baltimore County police have issued an arrest warrant for a Towson insurance executive who disappeared amid allegations that up to $1.1 million is missing from the company.

The warrant, issued Oct. 8., charged Hamilton Schmidt, the former chief executive of Charter Group Inc., with grand theft of the company's automobile.

Mr. Schmidt, 38, was last seen Sept. 14 driving a medium-blue 1992 Cadillac Seville, a company car with Maryland plates ZTH-451.

The next day, he sent a letter to his sister, Susan Schmidt, telling her that he had to get away for a while, police said yesterday. Ms. Schmidt reported her brother missing Sept. 18, and police decided to investigate after learning from her that he had financial troubles and had been depressed, said Sgt. Steve Doarnberger, Baltimore County police spokesman.

"We don't believe there was any foul play," he said. "He took money and clothing with him." The police officer also said Mr. Schmidt failed to appear for a scheduled Sept. 16 business meeting in Hartford, Conn.

Yesterday, representatives of the state Attorney General's office questioned at least one former employee of the Charter Group at its offices in Towson, a company executive said. Christopher J. Romano, chief of the criminal investigations unit, declined to comment on any possible probe.

The state Insurance Administration has been investigating the company's books for several weeks.

The Charter Group was owned in large part by an employee stock ownership plan financed by the ITT Hartford Insurance Group, based in Hartford, Conn. The insurance company lent Charter money to buy the stock of two retiring principals as well as to refinance existing acquisition debt, said Connie Gurney, an ITT Hartford spokeswoman.

She said ITT Hartford made the loan to the independent agency four years ago. After Charter defaulted on its September payment and Mr. Schmidt did not appear for a scheduled meeting to explain it, the insurer took control of the agency and sold it. Charter called in auditors as soon as it learned Mr. Schmidt had failed to appear.

The assets of the Towson firm were purchased last week by Benedict Rosenberg, part owner of Insurance Inc./Wye Group Agency of Timonium.

Mr. Rosenberg said this week that up to $1.1 million could be missing from Charter.

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