Homebuilder is sentenced for theft

March 06, 1994|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,Sun Staff Writer

A 31-year-old Street woman convicted in January of defrauding homebuyers of $27,000 in 1989 and 1990 was given suspended five-year sentences in Harford Circuit Court Wednesday on two counts of theft and two counts of fraudulently misappropriating funds.

Lisa Doreen Schwartz, who owned and operated Adams Homes until the Bel Air-based modular homebuilding company was shut down Aug. 8, 1989, was placed on three years of supervised probation, and was ordered to pay restitution and court costs of $865.

She was also ordered to perform 200 hours of community service.

The amount of restitution will be be calculated by the Department of Parole and Probation, said Diana A. Brooks, assistant state's attorney. If Schwartz disputes that amount, a hearing will be held to recalculate it.

Judge Cypert O. Whitfill heard the case in April 1993 but deferred judgment until Jan. 17, when he delivered a written opinion detailing his finding of guilt.

The judge said that many of the facts of the case were never in dispute and that the defendant's claim that the problems arose because of a bookkeeping error was untrue.

Testimony indicated that Schwartz accepted staggered payments from two couples who had ordered modular homes through Adams Homes.

Instead of keeping the money in separate escrow accounts, according to state law, the funds were placed in an operating account.

In addition to paying subcontractors, evidence showed that Schwartz paid for personal expenses and a $1,800 Christmas party from the business account.

Testimony also indicated that many of the Adams Homes business checks were returned for insufficient funds, and that Schwartz would intentionally delay payments and then tell customers or subcontractors that her bookkeeper had made an error.

"We reject any idea that the absence of information on the part of Lisa Schwartz was a good faith mistake," the judge said. "Lisa Schwartz elected to remain ignorant of the financial circumstances on a day-to-day basis."

Schwartz accepted money to order and install a modular home constructed by Contempri Homes of Scranton, Pa. She failed to deliver the product, stole clients' money for personal use and attempted to hide the company's lack of capital by various accounting maneuvers, the judge said.

He concluded that the business problems experienced by Adams Homes stemmed from a lack of capital.

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