A Towson man facing a long time in prison for one of the country's largest odometer roll-back schemes did not appear in court for sentencing yesterday, prompting a federal judge to sign a warrant for his arrest.
Theodore Schecter, 48, a used car wholesaler whom prosecutors have recommended for a 17- to 21-year prison term, didn't show up for his 10 a.m. hearing in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.
"We checked every hospital, and we checked the morgue. There's no sign of him," said Schecter's attorney, Harold I. Glaser, who told Judge Catherine C. Blake that he is worried his client may hurt himself.
Client 'on medication'
"He's on medication, and he's been seeing a psychiatrist."
Prosecutors portrayed Schecter, convicted in August of conspiracy to roll back odometers and money laundering, as the leader of an interstate ring that rolled back the odometers on nearly 3,000 cars between 1984 and 1994, costing consumers close to $5 million.
Schecter was on home detention while awaiting sentencing, Glaser said. Repeated attempts to locate him yesterday were unsuccessful, and the telephone at Schecter's apartment apparently had been left off the hook, Glaser said.
The apartment was later checked, but Schecter wasn't home, said Glaser, who added that Schecter's 86-year-old mother said she doesn't know the whereabouts of her son. Glaser told the judge that he could not reach Schecter's psychiatrist yesterday.
Blake said she had little choice but to issue a a bench warrant for Schecter's arrest.
Judge says he could have fled
"It could be he's in the hospital or that he's ill," Blake said. "But it is also a possibility that he's run."
In addition to Schecter, 11 ring members pleaded guilty, and three others were convicted in the scheme.
Schecter and others bought the cars at auctions, rolled back the odometers and sold them to retail dealers on used car lots from New York to Florida to Indiana.
Federal officials say they are cracking down on odometer tampering because of increased instances of fraud by opportunists looking to exploit an increased demand for used cars in recent years.
Odometer fraud inflates used car prices by more than $4 billion each year, the federal government estimates.
Pub Date: 12/20/97