Harford to probe rumors of deputies' participation in pyramid schemes

November 27, 1994|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,Sun Staff Writer

Harford County Sheriff Robert E. Comes has ordered an internal investigation of his own agency because of rumors of widespread involvement by deputies in financial pyramid schemes.

Sgt. Joseph Nason, the sheriff's internal affairs investigator, said he will begin his probe tomorrow, his first day at work after a vacation.

Sergeant Nason said in an interview last week that he has received no specific complaints or allegations about deputies' involvement in pyramid schemes.

But he added, "I've heard on the grapevine that a lot of agency people have at least been invited to participate in these schemes."

Sheriff Comes distributed a memo nine days ago to remind personnel in his office that pyramid schemes are illegal in Maryland, "and he ordered me to look into the matter," the sergeant said.

A pyramid based in Washington, called "Friends Helping Friends," surfaced about two weeks ago in Harford, according to State's Attorney Joseph I. Cassilly.

Mr. Cassilly said about 10 days ago that he had received three or four complaints regarding the pyramid schemes.

Apparently, some participants mistakenly believed they were not breaking state laws because they "cashed out," collecting their profits, in Washington, the prosecutor said.

But Maryland law prohibits promoting or advertising pyramid schemes, Mr. Cassilly said.

Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran determined recently that soliciting someone in Maryland to go to Washington to participate in the pyramid schemes is a criminal misdemeanor under state law.

Sergeant Nason declined to speculate on how long his investigation will take.

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