Ex-S&L chief loses bid for freedom pending trial

December 16, 1993|By Gary Cohn and Marcia Myers | Gary Cohn and Marcia Myers,Staff Writers

A federal magistrate yesterday shot down a proposal to release longtime fugitive Tom J. Billman from jail while he awaits trial on looting his Bethesda savings and loan of $28 million.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Daniel E. Klein Jr. turned down the request after Assistant U.S. Attorney Barbara S. Sale called Mr. Billman "the top dog" in the failure of his thrift and cautioned that he "posed a classic risk of flight."

"If ever there was a flight risk, this case is it," Ms. Sale said. "This is not a man for the court to take a chance on."

Mr. Billman's attorneys had asked the magistrate to release their client from jail pending trial and entrust him to the custody of his wife. They suggested that authorities equip Mr. Billman with an electronic bracelet that would monitor his whereabouts.

Mr. Billman, 53, who is accused of stealing millions from the failed Community Savings & Loan Association, disappeared in December 1988 and was a fugitive for more than four years. Using aliases and phony pass- ports, he eluded authorities while living a lavish lifestyle. He was captured at his Paris apartment in March while posing as a champagne entrepreneur named John Rink.

In rejecting Mr. Billman's request to be freed, Magistrate Klein said yesterday, "He has purportedly placed substantial sums of money outside the U.S. and were he to flee, I have no doubt he could live a good life."

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