Federal authorities said yesterday that Gary Huddles, once a rising star in Baltimore County politics, has flouted orders to forfeit more than $500,000 to the government by turning virtually all of his assets over to his ex-wife and running up $110,000 in credit card debt.
As a result, the latest chapter in Huddles' long history of legal troubles could be another stint in jail.
Yesterday, a federal judge gave an attorney for the former Baltimore County councilman until Sept. 30 to gather records that he says will show the government's claims against Huddles have "absolutely no validity."
"Obviously, it is not easy for a lawyer who is disbarred to make money, but he's done the best he can," defense attorney Robert B. Schulman said of Huddles, 63, whose legal and political career came to a close after his 1997 conviction for illegally handling $840,000 in suspected drug profits for a former law client.
Huddles served two years in federal prison for the crime and, for the past three years, has been under supervised release. As part of his sentence, he was also ordered to forfeit $586,500 of the $840,000 - but government officials said yesterday that Huddles has paid just $3,600.
Prosecutors have charged Huddles with eight probation violations, saying that in addition to failing to make the forfeiture payments, he also has failed to provide required information about his income, personal loans, debts and divorce.
If U.S. District Judge William M. Nickerson finds that Huddles violated his probation, the former councilman could face a longer probation sentence or be sent back to jail for several months.
A senior U.S. probation officer testified yesterday that Huddles had purposely transferred his assets and incurred steep debts to make himself "judgment-proof" from federal authorities.
The probation officer, William C. Tavik Jr., said that while Huddles has lived in an apartment in the upscale Cross Keys development in North Baltimore and sought permission to attend events such as the NCAA basketball tournament in 2000, he has steadily run up $110,000 in credit card debt.
Under questioning by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lisa M. Griffin, Tavik focused on a retirement account that Huddles had been specifically directed, at his 1997 sentencing, to maintain.
Instead, the account - worth $565,794 - went to Huddles' ex-wife, Linda, in a 1999 divorce proceeding, Tavik said. The probation officer said he did not learn about the transaction until early this year, although he had repeatedly asked Huddles about the account and for statements to show its current value.
"My conclusion is that Mr. Huddles did it with purpose," Tavik said. "He didn't want me to know that he had transferred these monies to his wife in a divorce proceeding. He didn't want me to know his financial condition as it really existed."
Schulman said the financial information presented by Tavik was incomplete and painted a false picture of Huddles' cooperation with authorities. He asked Nickerson to delay the hearing in order to gather information to rebut the probation officer's reports.
"Mr. Huddles does not want to go back to jail; he does not want to continue on probation. Mr. Huddles believes he has lived up, more or less, to his obligations while he has been on supervised release," Schulman said.
Schulman and Huddles declined to comment after the hearing.
The glare of the federal case has been unwelcome attention for a man who once thrived in the public spotlight.
A Democrat from Pikesville, Huddles became Baltimore County's first four-term council member, holding the seat from 1970 to 1986.
He was eyeing a run for county executive or Congress when his career was derailed in June 1985 amid the Maryland savings-and-loan scandal.
It was revealed that year that Huddles had received a $60,000 unsecured loan in 1982 from a subsidiary of a thrift controlled by his friend, Jeffrey A. Levitt, whose later thefts contributed to the collapse of the state's S&L system.
Huddles quickly repaid the loan. But he went on to face other troubles.
In 1985, he came under FBI investigation about a possible link between the Levitt loan and Huddles' vote to grant apartment density zoning to a Levitt-controlled property in Pikesville.
No charges were brought in that probe. And in 1991, Huddles was acquitted of charges that he took more than $50,000 from his campaign fund in 1987 to cover stock investments.
But the two investigations essentially finished Huddles' political career.