City schools worker pleads guilty to stealing $200,000

40-year sentence possible for fraud, other charges

May 25, 2004|By Stephanie Hanes | Stephanie Hanes,SUN STAFF

A former Baltimore schools employee pleaded guilty in federal court yesterday to stealing more than $200,000 from the cash-strapped system.

Lewis E. Williams, 61, could be sentenced to up to 40 years in prison if convicted on the bank fraud and misapplication of funds charges that arise from what prosecutors say was Williams' 16-month scheme to divert school money into his own bank account.

As part of the plea, Williams agreed to forfeit a 2003 Cadillac CTS and a 2004 Infiniti FX35 -- cars that prosecutors say he bought with the stolen money.

Williams worked for the Baltimore school board from 1995 to October last year. Prosecutors said he was in charge of renting school buildings to groups.

Around April 2002, prosecutors said, Williams started diverting rental payments into a private bank account he had opened in the name "LE Williams Enterprises."

He deposited in it at least 218 checks written to the school board, totaling just over $220,000, prosecutors said. They said he used most of that money -- $204,928.54 -- for personal debts, such as credit card and mortgage payments. He also bought the two cars, they said.

Williams' sentencing has not been scheduled.

The case against Williams stems from criminal investigations launched by the state prosecutor 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. The FBI investigated Williams' case, according to the prosecutor's office.

"This office continues to be committed to investigating and prosecuting fraud by public officials and the misappropriation of public money," DiBiagio said in a statement released after the guilty plea.

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