Jurors hear taped evidence in Baltimore extortion case

FBI recorded talks between former official with BDC, businessman

February 21, 2003|By Gail Gibson | Gail Gibson,SUN STAFF

Prosecutors told a federal jury yesterday that a former official with the Baltimore Development Corp. extorted money from businessmen - who had turned to the city agency for assistance - with the blunt assertion, "I helped you, now it's your turn to help me."

Terry P. Dean, 47, who was fired a year ago from his job as a senior BDC economic development officer, is charged in U.S. District Court with two counts of extortion under the color of office and two counts of accepting illegal gratuities in a federal program.

Dean's attorney, Kenneth W. Ravenell, portrayed Dean as a hard-working employee who merely approached businessmen whom he knew through work to help him with his financial difficulties. There was no promise of special favors in return, the defense attorney said.

"Terry Dean worked effortlessly to get the job done, and he was consistent with that before he received the funds and after he received the funds," Ravenell said during closing arguments in Dean's trial.

Dean is accused of taking two payments of $2,500 each from Bruce Iannatuono, owner of Chesapeake Advertising, and Thomas Brooks of 6100 Seaforth LLC - both businesses that received financial assistance from the BDC, Baltimore's quasi-public development arm.

Jurors heard FBI wiretaps of meetings between Dean and Brooks during which Dean sought the money in August 2001, a month before he and his wife purchased a 1,500-square- foot home in Forest Park for $108,000. Prosecutors have said Dean needed the money to help pay $7,500 in closing costs on the house.

At one point on the tapes, Brooks expressed his concerns that both men could go to prison because of the transactions.

Dean responded: "Don't nobody know about this but me and you."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ari Casper told jurors that Dean also had brazenly told Brooks during a business lunch that it was "your turn to help me" - a demand that drove Brooks to the FBI for help and resulted in the wiretapped conversations.

"The tapes don't lie," Casper said. "The tapes tell the story of what happened. The FBI, they didn't create a crime here - they just captured one on tape."

Brooks' development project was at the Holabird Business Park in East Baltimore. The Chesapeake Advertising project was in the 900 block of E. Fayette St., part of a four-block corridor where the BDC has invested more than $3.5 million to create a downtown business park to attract new companies and jobs for city residents.

Jurors are expected to begin deliberations in the case today. The weeklong trial was put on hold for two days this week because of the weekend snowstorm.

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