Couple receives prison time for Balto. County theft scheme

Money, jewels stolen from black women

November 24, 1999|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

A con man who used 18 aliases in six states to bilk people was sentenced to 15 years in prison yesterday in a scheme in which he stole money and jewelry from African-American women in Baltimore County .

Thomas Richardson, 46, who pleaded guilty in September to two counts of felony theft, was sentenced by Baltimore County Circuit Judge John O. Hennegan.

Richardson's wife, Angela Richardson, 28, who pleaded guilty to the same charges, received a 7-year sentence yesterday.

Assistant State's Attorney Frank C. Meyer Jr. called the couple "flim-flam" artists who would "prey on older African-American women" by taking advantage of their race and religious beliefs in getting them to hand over money and jewelry.

According to Meyer and police reports, Richardson introduced himself to his victims in shopping center parking lots in western Baltimore County, claiming to be a native of Africa who had inherited a large sum of money or was given the money by his country's king.

He would tell the person he could not keep the money because of religious reasons but needed to find someone he could trust to donate it to a church.

Richardson then showed his victims what appeared to be a large roll of money but was one layer of bills wrapped around wads of paper.

As a show of trust, he would persuade a victim to withdraw about $1,000 from a bank, which he said he would wrap in a scarf -- along with the victim's rings -- and his wad of money. He would drop the bundle into the victim's trunk and tell her not to check the trunk for 12 hours.

When the victim opened her trunk, she would find only bundles of newspaper wrapped in rubber bands.

Richardson's wife would play the role of another person he had entrusted with his money, said Meyer.

One of their victims, Janice Alexander, 55, a nurse's aide from Randallstown, said she was pleased with the prison sentences. She hopes they will put a stop to the Richardsons' scheme, she said.

According to Alexander and court documents, Thomas Richardson first approached Alexander in the Metro Food parking lot on Liberty Road in August 1997, asking directions to a Washington church to donate his money.

Eventually, she gave him $1,000 and her $1,200 wedding ring. She watched him wrap the money and jewels in a scarf, she said yesterday. When she opened the scarf after the couple left, the valuables were gone.

At the sentencing, Meyer said Thomas Richardson has been swindling people for nearly 30 years and has been arrested 35 times in six states, including Ohio, New York and Georgia. He has been convicted nine times.

The Richardsons' lawyer, M. Cristina Gutierrez, told the judge that the couple had problems with drugs and have an 11-month-old daughter.

She declined to comment on the sentences.

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