Baltimore Co. fire officials conduct own 'pyramid' probe 44 police officers also being interviewed

November 17, 1995|By Joe Nawrozki and Robert A. Erlandson | Joe Nawrozki and Robert A. Erlandson,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County fire officials are interviewing 17 department members caught up in the yearlong state investigation of a pyramid scheme to see whether they violated departmental or county regulations, the fire chief said yesterday.

Those questioned will be asked whether they used their rank as leverage to force other firefighters to invest $1,500 in the get-rich-quick scheme, Fire Chief Allan A. Thomason said. They also will be asked whether they participated while on county time.

Meanwhile, detectives from the Police Department's internal affairs section are interviewing 44 officers who have been identified as investors in the game, said spokesman Capt. Brian Uppercue.

The police officers and the Fire Department employees were part of a once-popular scheme that swept the Baltimore region last fall and was played out in Washington hotel ballrooms and suites. Many others, including doctors, homemakers and lawyers, participated in the game before it unraveled in December.

Last week, the attorney general's office charged three firefighters from the Fullerton station as alleged ringleaders in the scheme.

A grand jury indicted Lt. Michael Steven Nace, 42, on charges of conspiracy, violating the state pyramid law and evading state income taxes.

Criminal informations alleging a violation of the pyramid law were filed against Fire Specialist Michael K. Day, 31, a vice president in the firefighters local; and Michael T. Mather, 36, an emergency medical technician. Mr. Day is also charged with conspiracy.

While officials said the attorney general's investigation has concluded, the county probes could lead to possible further action against at least one more alleged high-ranking pyramid organizer and player from Baltimore.

Chief Thomason said he would not divulge specifics about the departmental probe. "Unless, from a Fire Department perspective, we come up with significant individuals that actively and openly were recruiting people on county time and property, no disciplinary action will be taken," he said.

At the height of the game's popularity, Marylanders thought they could skirt state law by attending meetings in Washington. There, they invested $1,500 apiece, hoping to "cash out" by winning $12,000. The scheme unraveled after Maryland's attorney general increased pressure to halt the games.

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