Canton Business Owner Dies After Robbery

August 13, 2009|By Justin Fenton | Justin Fenton,justin.fenton@baltsun.com

A 54-year-old businessman, found bound by zip ties inside his Canton vending machine business last month, has died after being taken off life support, and police said Wednesday that homicide detectives are investigating.

Constantine "Dino" Frank of Baldwin, who also owned pool halls and shopping centers in Baltimore County, was discovered July 29 in the vestibule of Precision Vending, in the 1000 block of S. Lakewood Ave., face-down and bound. He had managed to get one hand free, but suffered a stroke during the ordeal, according to police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.

Frank was conscious but unable to speak, and was transported to Johns Hopkins Hospital. It is unknown how long Frank had been in the vestibule. He died Tuesday, and an autopsy was planned to determined whether his death will be classified as a homicide.

The Rev. Constantine Moralis, dean of the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation, said Frank was a generous family man whose death was a "great tragedy for our community."

Police disclosed the incident for the first time Wednesday. Guglielmi confirmed that the manager of Frank's Parkville pool hall received a phone call at about 8 p.m. from an unknown person who said, "You better get down here. Your boss isn't doing so well," and hung up.

A relative then contacted police, asking them to check on Frank. His vehicle was located outside the building, and the door to the business was locked. An initial check of the business determined that it had not been ransacked, and it was uncertain whether anything had been taken. Police later learned that an undisclosed amount of cash was missing.

Ron Michael, a fellow vendor who said he is close with Frank's family, said visitors to the business had to be buzzed inside.

The attackers "didn't rifle through the desks, they didn't go through anything, other than his office in the money room," Michael said. "And that tells me they knew what they were looking for."

Guglielmi said the business had a surveillance system, but videotapes from it could not be located.

He said investigators were working to determine whether the tapes were stolen or the security system was not fully operational.

The incident is being jointly investigated by the homicide unit and citywide robbery, Guglielmi said.

Michael said Frank was a well-liked and private businessman. "He was a great guy, always positive," Michael said. "Everyone's devastated."

Frank owned two pool halls, the Top Hat Cue Club in Parkville and North Point Billiards in Dundalk, and owned the Painters Mill shopping center in Owings Mills, according to published reports. The Top Hat pool hall, which he operated for more than 25 years, was recently profiled in the Towson Times as a wholesome business where gambling, alcohol and profanity were not allowed.

"I want Ma and Pa to be able to bring Junior in and not have to worry," he told the newspaper.

Frank took over the family vending business from his father, Nick Frank, in 1997, the same year the elder Frank was convicted for the second time on gambling charges connected to video-poker machines. Nick Frank died in 2002.

Through Precision Vending, Constantine Frank contributed heavily to several political campaigns in recent years. State campaign finance records show he contributed more than $13,000 to city and state elected officials, including $5,250 to former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., $2,000 to House Speaker Michael E. Busch, and $1,300 to City Councilman James B. Kraft.

Kraft said Frank had recently explored a land swap that would allow a development company to build town homes at the site of Precision Vending, a nondescript warehouse on South Lakewood Avenue and Dillon Street, behind the Canton Market shopping complex. "He was a very pleasant guy," Kraft said.

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