Symphony Show House owned by tax evader IRS seized, then returned items from Phoenix mansion

December 13, 1996|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Curious to see where a convicted tax evader, rock concert promoter and accused swindler lives? The chance could come at a charity fund-raiser next spring.

That's when the Baltimore Symphony Associates will hold the Symphony Decorators' Show House, where a $12 admission fee will gain access to the professionally decorated, 19,500-square-foot Phoenix mansion of convicted tax cheat Richard Klotzman and his wife, Helene.

But paying visitors won't be the only strangers to have toured the 10-bedroom, seven-fireplace, 1928 mansion on 7 acres at 12600 Jarrettsville Pike.

Federal agents raided the house in April, seizing a six-page, single-spaced list of items, ranging from furniture, computers, televisions, stereos and antiques to collectibles, such as a football signed by O. J. Simpson and platinum records of the Geto Boys and Public Enemy rap groups.

The seizures were to help satisfy a federal tax debt of up to $7.6 million in principal, interest and penalties for nine tax years between 1972 and 1987, according to court documents.

Internal Revenue Service spokesman Dominic J. Laponzina says all the items seized were returned to the Klotzmans, however, "as part of an agreement." He would not elaborate.

Meanwhile, Klotzman -- who once successfully promoted concerts for entertainers such as Elton John, the Grateful Dead and Liberace -- says he is negotiating to pay off his tax debts and other judgments against him and his wife.

Klotzman was sentenced in 1987 to 3 1/2 years in prison for tax evasion and bilking his own concert promotions. The federal judge who sentenced him called him "a danger to society" for his "endless chain of lies."

He now is charged with swindling a Georgia factory worker out of $28,000 -- an accusation he vehemently denies. He also is under investigation by the FBI and the IRS on other matters, according to Baltimore FBI spokesman Larry Foust, who would not elaborate. Klotzman refused to comment on those investigations.

His recent troubles came as a big surprise to organizers of the annual charity event, which this year took place at a Guilford home in which an elderly couple was murdered in 1994.

"We really don't need this to happen again," said Joanne Levasseur, chairwoman of the decorators' house project, which raises money for the symphony. "Every house we've had has had some kind of skeleton in the closet. You're making my heart drop to the bottom."

Levasseur said that the group knew nothing of Klotzman's current legal and financial problems. "We knew he had a troubling past, but we thought that was the past."

She said Helene Klotzman contacted the group and offered the mansion, which is located on seven acres and features a 44-foot-long ballroom. The house was for sale at the time, Levasseur said, but is no longer on the market.

Mr. Klotzman says he is trying to straighten his life out, and that the house tour "has nothing to do with Richard Klotzman. We thought we were doing something positive," he said about his wife's offer to use the house for the tour. "We don't get anything for it [except] wallpaper that's probably the wrong color."

Allowing the mansion's use by the Symphony Associates "is an act of giving something," he said, not a selfish one. To hold his wife's offer up to public scrutiny because of his record, he said, is wrong. "That's not fair. She is Snow White," he said of his wife.

Frank Pisch, director of development for the symphony, said the associates annually raise about $200,000 toward the orchestra's $18 million budget.

"They are volunteers and they are very independent. They very much do this on their own," he said, declining to comment on the selection of Klotzman's house.

Klotzman, the colorful son of a Baltimore pawnbroker, rose to notice in the 1970s. In 1979 he was charged with failing to pay federal income taxes of $250,000 from 1971 to 1974. He pleaded guilty to tax evasion and was sentenced to four months in a halfway house and fined $10,000.

Four years later, he got an 18-month suspended sentence for conviction on charges of failing to pay the government for income tax withholdings for 15 of his employees.

In 1985, federal agents raided his former 200-acre Worthington Valley estate, seizing 60 works of art, including a Picasso and a Chagall, three Mercedes-Benz cars, jewelry and furniture. The jail term came two years later.

In addition, the Klotzmans owe $17,000 in unpaid heating oil bills for the Jarrettsville mansion, plus personal debts and state taxes totaling more than $110,000, according to Baltimore County Circuit Court records. Klotzman says he's negotiating to settle those debts.

And on March 28 of this year, he surrendered to arrest at Baltimore IRS offices downtown, as other agents visited the mansion overlooking Loch Raven in connection with the Georgia theft-by-deception charges. After getting court authorization April 2, agents returned and raided the mansion, seizing the items subsequently returned to Klotzman.

Klotzman said he considers the Georgia charges -- which stem from a failed rap concert tour -- a contract dispute, and says he's refused to repay the money. He now is free on bail until trial, which may take place in February, said Ben Mitcham, chief assistant district attorney for Baldwin County.

Mitcham says the case involves a naive, "hard-working laborer" who thought he was investing his life savings in a Klotzman-promoted rap concert that never happened.

Pub Date: 12/13/96

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