Ex-school worker pleads innocent to bank fraud

Williams accused of taking $220,000 from 2002-2003

March 20, 2004|By Liz Bowie | Liz Bowie,SUN STAFF

Lewis E. Williams, the former Baltimore school system employee accused of stealing $220,000 in school system funds, pleaded innocent yesterday at his arraignment in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

Williams and his attorney said little during the 10-minute courtroom hearing or afterward as Williams tried to flee a swarm of photographers on the sidewalk outside the courthouse. His attorney, Darrell Chambers, declined to comment on the specifics of the case.

The 61-year-old Pikesville man was responsible for collecting payments from groups that rent school space, according to federal prosecutors. From April 2002 through August last year, prosecutors say, Williams deposited a significant portion of those payments into a checking account he opened at Mercantile Bank under the name of L.E. Williams Enterprises.

Williams, who retired from the school system in October after more than eight years, is alleged to have written personal checks on the account to pay for two cars and to pay off debt. After he entered his plea yesterday, he agreed to surrender his passport and was released.

Williams is charged with 16 counts of bank fraud, as well as related offenses. The most serious charge, bank fraud, carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison. In addition to the federal charges, a city grand jury has indicted Williams on charges related to stealing school money. He will be arraigned on those charges June 3.

The case against him stems from criminal investigations launched by State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli and Maryland U.S. Attorney Thomas M. DiBiagio after the school system announced this winter that it had a $58 million deficit and was nearly insolvent. School officials do not believe the deficit was the result of widespread corruption.

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