Howard police arrest man charged in schemes

Miller accused of posing as lawyer, taking money

March 29, 2002|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

Robert Franklin Miller, a man charged with working a real estate scheme on victims across the Baltimore area, was arrested Wednesday in Harford County on warrants from Baltimore County and Howard County.

Miller, charged in three similar grand-theft cases, posted $5,000 bonds in each of the counties and was released yesterday from the Howard County Detention Center.

Howard County police said they have contacted the Maryland Attorney General's Office about Miller's scheme charges. Prosecutors in that office said they could not comment on whether they have taken the case.

The three latest charges against Miller allege that he posed as a lawyer. He has been convicted in cases where he claimed to be a chiropractor, health professional, university dean, world karate champion and auto dealer.

He was released from prison in May after serving a sentence from a 1995 conviction for posing as a Baltimore County auto dealer and swindling people out of money and their cars.

Some who claim to have been swindled by Miller say it was his smooth-talking demeanor and sharp presentation that convinced them of his legitimacy.

Miller told 74-year-old Jean Marie Zeback he wanted to help her buy the Baltimore County property she now rents, according to charging documents. She gave him a check for $1,450 on Nov. 11 and never heard from him again, she said.

"He showed me pictures of yachts and fancy cars - big-name cars, like Mercedes - that he said were his, and I thought he really must be loaded," Zeback said. "I should have known there was something wrong, but when you think you're talking to a lawyer, you just assume."

Zeback said she was introduced to Miller through her grandson, who says he met him at a relative's funeral last fall.

Miller is also accused of swindling Zeback's daughter Bonnie Lee Peck, according to charging documents. Peck gave Miller $250 cash to retain his "legal services" in a paternity suit, Zeback said.

In two other cases, one filed in Howard County and one in Baltimore County, Miller purported to be a lawyer who could repair damaged credit so that his clients could obtain mortgages to buy homes. He asked for a $1,000 or a $1,500 down payment, police said.

Columbia resident Sonia Wilson told police she signed several phony contracts and gave Miller a check for $1,000 after he promised to help her obtain a mortgage to buy a $160,000 duplex on Little Foxes Run in the Long Reach village of Columbia.

"There are desperate people out there whose credit isn't so great, and all they want to do is buy a home," Wilson said in an interview last month. A Howard County police spokeswoman said police are investigating the possibility that Miller took advantage of other Howard County residents, but she said no other apparent victims have been confirmed.

Howard's warrant apprehension unit received a tip about Miller's whereabouts Wednesday and arrested him in Harford County, police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said. The 48-year-old Abingdon resident was not arrested at his home, Llewellyn said, but she could not elaborate further.

Miller is scheduled for trial April 18 for one Baltimore County charge and June 18 for the Howard County charge. No court date has been set in the second Baltimore County charge.

Zeback and Wilson said they doubted they would get their money back, but both said they want to do their part to keep others from falling for schemes.

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