Man who bilked schools receives 18-month term

More than $200,000 taken from payments for use of city system's facilities

August 28, 2004|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

A former Baltimore schools employee who admitted stealing more than $200,000 from the financially ailing school system was sentenced in federal court yesterday to 18 months in prison and ordered to forfeit two luxury cars.

Lewis E. Williams, 61, of Baltimore had pleaded guilty in both U.S. District and Baltimore Circuit courts to charges related to the theft of rental payments he had collected on behalf of the system between April 2002 and September last year.

Williams, who was in charge of renting school buildings and facilities to outside groups, accepted checks totaling more than $220,000 that were made out to the school board but then deposited that money into a Mercantile Bank and Trust account he controlled, prosecutors said.

Williams withdrew nearly $205,000 from the Mercantile account and used the cash to pay personal bills, including credit cards bills, investigators said. He also bought two cars, they charged, and among the items he has been ordered to forfeit are a 2003 Cadillac CTS and a 2004 Infiniti FX35.

U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett - in addition to sentencing Williams to the prison time, 30 months' supervised release and the forfeiture - ordered any restitution that he makes go to Mercantile Bank and Trust and then be forwarded to the school system, the federal prosecutor's office said.

State prosecutors said that between money left over in the account Williams used in his scheme and restitution he has already made, Mercantile Bank and Trust is holding about $29,000. Bank officials were not available yesterday to comment about the return of the money to the school system.

In May, Williams pleaded guilty in federal court to bank fraud and misapplication of funds. He pleaded guilty this month in Baltimore Circuit Court to felony theft. On Thursday, Williams was formally sentenced in state court to an 18-month suspended sentence. Steven Trostle, the prosecutor in the state case, said his office felt yesterday's federal sentence was appropriate.

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