City to buy land owned by former convict

June 05, 2008|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,Sun reporter

Baltimore officials voted yesterday to pay more than $1 million for three parcels of land owned by Gilbert Sapperstein, a liquor license broker and ex-convict who pleaded guilty to defrauding the city school system in 2005.

The land deal was approved at a Board of Estimates meeting, which Sapperstein attended. The properties were listed for sale by Gwynn Associates LLP, a company that state records show shares the same address as Sapperstein's Baltimore County home.

An official with Baltimore Development Corp., which negotiated the real estate sale, said he is aware the properties are owned by Sapperstein, a former boiler company owner who was sentenced to 18 months in jail for submitting fake work invoices to the school system. Sapperstein repaid the system $3.5 million, the sum he stole plus 6 percent interest, and served time in jail before being released on home detention.

"It is just a negotiated financial agreement," said M.J. "Jay" Brodie, president of the development corporation, referring to the land deal that was unanimously approved by the spending board.

Leon F. Pinkett, senior economic development officer with Baltimore Development Corp., said the sale was not negotiated by Sapperstein but by his attorney, Stanley S. Fine.

The three parcels of land - in Howard Park in West Baltimore - are needed to complete land acquisitions for a new full-service shopping center, Pinkett said, adding that three more parcels of land are needed to complete the real estate package.

Howard Park has been without a full-service supermarket for nearly a decade, Pinkett said. The development corporation has been working with the community in recent years to expand and strengthen its commercial center, he said. The supermarket will be an anchor for future business revitalization and expansion.

Pinkett said the deal will fill a need in the community.

Sapperstein's son, Mark Sapperstein, is a well-known developer in Baltimore. Baltimore Development Corp. selected a team headed by Mark Sapperstein to redevelop a critical downtown corner at Lombard and Calvert streets in January 2005.

The son also has other projects in the city, including turning an old mill off Fort Avenue in Locust Point into a residential and commercial hub.

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