`Plan B' in plot to kill

4 accused of scheme had abduction backup, prosecutors tell judge

Bail of $1 million each set

Defendants belong to space-alien cult in Carroll County

October 05, 2001|By Sheridan Lyons and Dan Fesperman | Sheridan Lyons and Dan Fesperman,SUN STAFF

The suspects in an alleged murder-for-hire scheme had a backup plan if an intended hit man failed: to kidnap a granddaughter of one of the targets, according to prosecutors and charging documents in the case against the reputed leader and three members of a Carroll County space-alien cult.

"This was Plan B," said Deputy State's Attorney Tracy A. Gilmore, who asked that the defendants be held without bail during a hearing yesterday in county District Court in Westminster.

Judge JoAnn M. Ellinghaus-Jones then set bail at $1 million each for Scott Caruthers, 56, his wife, Dashielle Lashra, 42, and Dulsa Naedek, 42, all of the 500 block of Scott Drive in Westminster, and for Westminster lawyer David Stuart Pearl, 46, of the 100 block of Masters Court.

All were charged Wednesday with conspiring to murder David Gable, 51, of Baltimore County, a former business associate, and with solicitation of Amir Tabassi, a sometime bodyguard for Caruthers, to commit the murder.

Tabassi went to the FBI after receiving a gold bracelet with diamonds and emeralds as an alleged "down payment" on promises of receiving stock valued at $110,000, according to the charging documents.

The other men targeted in the alleged plot, according to charging documents written by Sgt. Steven Hohner of the Maryland State Police, are Lewis Dardick, 42, a former law partner of Pearl's whose former wife is a close friend of the defendants; Timothy Hackerman, 41, who is Naedek's former husband; and Michael Tulkoff, 38, who helped mobilize family efforts to investigate the alleged cult.

Hohner's report also mentions the possible kidnapping plot against the granddaughter and alludes to possible plans to take action against an unnamed Delaware attorney.

The four suspects have been charged by Maryland State Police with conspiring to kill Dardick, Hackerman and Tulkoff.

State police arrested the suspects early Wednesday on charges involving Gable and the three other intended victims.

All four of the men targeted are in danger because other unknown cult members may be willing to carry out the killings, according to Gilmore and court documents.

"The state believes that there is a significant threat to the intended victims," she told the judge.

William H. Murphy Jr., an attorney for one of the targeted men named only as John Doe, filed an unsuccessful motion to seal the court file, saying his client fears other followers of Caruthers and has gone into hiding with his family at the urging of the police.

The four defendants, handcuffed and dressed in orange jumpsuits from the Carroll County Detention Center, said nothing at the bail review hearing as their attorneys sought their release and mocked the allegations.

"This is a well-devised plot against these four people," said Richard L. Gershberg, an Owings Mills attorney and the brother of Naedek, who represented her, Caruthers and Lashra yesterday. Gershberg said he is not a criminal defense attorney and would not handle the case at trial.

Gary S. Bernstein of Towson, Pearl's attorney, said Tabassi, the supposed hit man, "was running a scam on us. ... There are two ways to read this."

Bernstein said the defendants want Gable alive and happy. Carnegie International, a Hunt Valley telecommunications business co-founded by Caruthers and Gable, is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission and is in the midst of a lawsuit in Baltimore against its accounting firm, he said.

Killing Gable "guarantees that the stock drops from 6 cents to zero. They should keep him fat and happy, and make sure he's available to testify," said Bernstein, calling Gable and his testimony "the goose that will lay the golden egg."

Gershberg said he agreed with Bernstein, saying several times that Gilmore was "absolutely incorrect."

"Mr. Caruthers has been a controversial person in this county," he said, noting previous articles in The Sun that detailed the accusations that Caruthers led a space-alien cult, communicating with mother ships through his cats. "There's been a lot of fog that's being created by a lot of people.

Caruthers is an author and an artist, Gershberg said, and was honored in Philadelphia during a July 1999 exhibition with a mayor's proclamation of "cyber art month."

Gershberg said he has known them for a long time. "These people did not in any way intend to or actually make a plan to kill anyone," he said. "These are not the kind of people that take out a contract on anyone."

He also mentioned that he is a co-defendant with Caruthers, Pearl and others in a civil lawsuit filed in Baltimore by investors who lost money in a past business venture headed by Caruthers.

At the bail hearing, Gilmore called the defendants substantial flight risks, saying that Caruthers may have millions in bank accounts, real estate and about 20 companies, mostly off shore, and that he travels often to the Bahamas and the Caribbean. He also told a police officer he plans to move, she said.

Gershberg said: "Everything they own at this point that has any value is a function of the stock in [Carnegie]." He said that Caruthers is an ambassador to Ukraine for the tiny island nation of Dominica.

The judge ordered the four defendants to stay away from Gable, to surrender their passports and not to leave the state without notifying the court, if they do post bond. By 6 p.m. yesterday, none had.

"If this turns out to be true, it's extraordinary," said Ellinghaus-Jones, noting that she is obligated to take the state's case at face value for purposes of bail review.

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