Cosmetology school owners are sentenced They falsified documents for $2.5 million in grants

November 01, 1997|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore couple who ran a cosmetology school were sentenced yesterday to prison in U.S. District Court for falsifying documents and bilking the government out of up to $2.5 million in grant money for the school.

Ron Thomas, 60, of the 6300 block of Belair Road was sentenced to a year and a day and his wife, Von Thomas, 60, of the same address, was sentenced to 37 months for fraudulently obtaining federal grants for the Ron Thomas School of Cosmetology, which had branches throughout the Baltimore area.

Judge Andre Davis said he was reluctant to sentence the couple to prison.

"This saddens me, because I believe that at their very core, they are very decent people," he said.

John R. Francomano, Von Thomas' attorney, had requested a lighter sentence because, he said, she had a pancreatic condition that has put her into hospitals several times in recent years.

But Davis rejected that, recommending that she be sent to a federal women's prison in Carswell, Texas, that includes a medical facility. Her husband may be sent to a facility near her, Davis said.

Ron and Von Thomas were described by prosecutors as being responsible for a scheme in which hundreds of documents were falsified to qualify ineligible students at their school for Pell Grants.

This sentence "serves the goals of deterrence," said Assistant U.S. Attorney W. Warren Hamel. "I can't imagine someone stealing $2 million and getting any less."

Von Thomas was given the stiffer sentence because she was considered the mastermind, ordering employees to falsify test scores and attendance records, according to prosecutors.

Ron Thomas played a lesser role, and apparently spent most of his time playing golf, Hamel said.

"One of the few times when golf saved a man from worse," Hamel said.

Pub Date: 11/01/97

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