Kolodner accused of witness tampering

Con artist wrote man asking him to recant testimony, affidavit says

`I really am a good ... person'

76-year-old who says she bilked him notified agents

May 08, 2002|By Michael James | Michael James,SUN STAFF

Federal prosecutors charged noted Maryland con woman Deborah Kolodner yesterday with obstruction of justice and tampering with a grand jury witness -- namely, a 76-year-old man she intimated she would marry if he would recant incriminating testimony, a federal affidavit said.

Kolodner, 47, an attractive redhead alleged to have enticed numerous well-to-do men to act as pawns in an elaborate mortgage-flipping scheme, was accused yesterday of writing two beguiling letters from jail to Robert Wesley Harris. She attempted to charm him into reversing his recent grand jury testimony, prosecutors said.

"I know you lied because they forced you," she wrote in an April 18 letter to Harris, a Towson resident who recently testified to a grand jury that Kolodner bilked him out of $120,000 in real estate deals. "You must write to the judge and tell him the truth, otherwise I will die in jail and no one will ever be with me."

Kolodner goes on to say in the letter that "I really am a good, honest, smart and caring person" and that Harris should help her because she has always had strong feelings for him, noting that she often considered marrying him.

Harris turned that letter and another over to federal agents. He also wrote to Kolodner saying that although he loved her, he would not lie for her, nor would he provide her with money for a lawyer as she requested, a federal affidavit said.

Kolodner has been portrayed by federal agents and prosecutors as a one-woman criminal enterprise who has used her looks and charm to lure several men to help her in criminal schemes.

Harris was not enlisted in any of the criminal schemes and was a victim, prosecutors said. He met Kolodner -- then recently released from prison after serving 16 months for a 1998 mail fraud conviction -- nearly two years ago at a bereavement counseling meeting, court papers said.

Harris was attracted to her, according to prosecutors' accounts of his grand jury testimony, usually secret but made public yesterday in the federal affidavit.

In April 2000, Kolodner took Harris to the Money Man mortgage brokerage office in Pikesville so that he could arrange to obtain a mortgage on his property, the affidavit said. Kolodner said she wanted to invest the money from Harris' mortgage in property in Connecticut, and he provided her with two checks -- one for $50,000, the other for $25,000, the affidavit said.

Kolodner persuaded Harris that September to take out a second mortgage, this time $25,000 for a property investment in Nashville, Tenn., the affidavit said.

During the next several months, Kolodner borrowed another $20,000 from Harris, at times saying she needed money for surgery and illnesses that she apparently did not suffer from, the affidavit said.

Prosecutors say that Harris and other people -- including a blind man and numerous others who believed they were purchasing homes -- contributed to Kolodner's thirst for wealth. She is alleged to have built up a hoard of riches, including jewels, expensive clothes, a Rolls-Royce, a Bentley, a Jaguar and two Mercedes-Benz automobiles, and a $765,000 Eastern Shore waterfront house.

"The defendant used approximately $120,000 of Mr. Harris' money for her own purposes and to support her lavish lifestyle," the affidavit said.

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