'Dr. Bob' big boasts, big plans, big trouble

November 24, 1993|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Staff Writer

He was a jet-set investor who boasted of piles of money in foreign banks and of flying to California to cut multimillion-dollar deals that would turn tankers into floating casinos.

Robert Franklin Miller, known as "Dr. Bob," was a charismatic, hyperkinetic businessman who talked about plans to sell recapped tires to the Chinese, inflatable tents to the Germans and "odorless underwear" to the military.

He had a law degree on his wall, a chiropractor's certificate on his desk and posh offices in Annapolis, where he told friends that he served on the boards of two universities and was dean of a third.

He loved to sing karaoke at the Annapolis restaurant where he had his own table and was part-owner -- and often demonstrated his chiropractic skills by manipulating the backs of the waitresses and kitchen workers.

But police say "Dr. Bob" is not a chiropractor or a lawyer.

He is, they say, a first-rate liar and fraud.

In May, Mr. Miller -- with Annapolis police looking on -- took a pair of bolt cutters and, according to prosecutors, broke into Dr. Bob's 911 Club, of which he had been part-owner. He hauled off everything that wasn't nailed down, police said.

Robert Franklin Miller, 40, is now in the Anne Arundel County Jail on $150,000 bail awaiting trial on theft and breaking-and-entering charges in the May 24 incident, and on conspiracy charges related to a diploma mill scam he has been accused of setting up.

He has left behind a host of angry creditors, some red-faced police officials, an upset state regulatory agency and a former business partner who says he is out $100,000 and is wondering what happened to the $20,000 Mr. Miller allegedly stashed in a briefcase the night he removed the restaurant's contents.

State police Trooper Anthony Faggio, who spent three months investigating the case, said Mr. Miller is responsible for a string of unpaid bills.

"This guy didn't pay for anything. You're talking about food services, gardening services, laundry bills, cleaning. Everything he used or got involved in he owes money for -- Federal Express, the phone company, mail order catalogs."

Mr. Miller's attorney, Anne Arundel County public defender Alan R. Friedman, said he would not let his client discuss his case with a reporter. Mr. Friedman was in court Nov. 15 successfully arguing for the release of evidence he said prosecutors were withholding.

Mr. Miller's trial is scheduled for January in Anne Arundel Circuit Court.

Mr. Miller, who was born in Jersey City, N.J., has a decade-long history of run-ins with police in New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Franklin, Pa., and Rockville involving charges that include theft, passing bad checks and sexual assault.

But convictions have been few.

In 1990, he was charged with two rapes in Montgomery County. One case was dismissed by the county state's attorney, and he was acquitted in the other, according to a police spokeswoman there.

Last year, he was convicted of the unauthorized practice of law in Venango County Court of Common Pleas in Franklin, Pa., and was ordered to pay restitution to a couple who paid him $29,000 to represent a suspect charged with sexual assault, according to a spokeswoman for the Venango County district attorney's office.

Mr. Miller served time in 1982 at the State Corrections Institution in Pittsburgh after he was found guilty of trying to bribe a Pittsburgh official $100 to overlook a building code violation, the spokeswoman said.

He spent a year in the State Regional Correctional Facility at Mercer, Pa., on a disorderly conduct conviction and was released June 21, 1987, according to a prison spokesman, who could not explain why the prison term was so lengthy.

"This guy was a real operator," said Anne Arundel Assistant State's Attorney Robert J. Bittman, who is prosecuting the the theft and conspiracy charges.

According to Anne Arundel Circuit Court records, Mr. Miller's recent brush with the law started with a drunken-driving conviction in Montgomery County in 1991.

Because that conviction violated terms of his probation for a theft conviction in Venango County, Mr. Miller was transferred to the Pennsylvania county's jail, where he was placed on work release in late 1991, court records show.

And it was there, according to court papers, that he developed the vision of the college he would start -- the Washington Chiropractic College.

He started small.

In fact, prosecutors say, his college was no larger than an answering service and a post office box where unsuspecting students would have sent tuition checks of $4,000 to $5,000 for training at a school with no campus, no teachers and no classrooms.

Mr. Bittman said no students were duped by the scheme but that the 40 boxes of letters, memos and other documents confiscated by police in a June 21 raid on Mr. Miller's Annapolis offices provided sufficient evidence for the conspiracy charge.

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