28 properties owned by Tillman auctioned off

More trouble indicated for Baltimore's bail-bond executive

December 18, 2009|By Justin Fenton | justin.fenton@baltsun.com

Twenty-eight properties throughout Baltimore that were owned by one of the city's biggest bail bondsmen, Milton Tillman Jr., were auctioned off Thursday, indicating more troubles for the businessman following reports of a federal investigation last year.

The properties, located in some of the city's most distressed neighborhoods, were auctioned off as a group and purchased separately. Predominantly clustered in East Baltimore and the McElderry Park neighborhood, the properties also included homes in the Woodbourne-McCabe and Waverly neighborhoods in North Baltimore and locations on the west side. The total debt was more than $850,000.

Attorneys involved in the sale declined to comment.

Foreclosure proceedings related to Thursday's auction began in August against Tillman, son Milton Tillman III, and their associates and related companies. Court records show the Tillmans, who run 4 Aces Bail Bonds, have numerous other properties facing foreclosure.

Milton Tillman Jr. has been a repeated target of federal and state law enforcement and was convicted years ago of tax evasion and bribery. None of the properties that were auctioned off on Thursday were among the five addresses raided by FBI and IRS agents last year, in a probe that has not culminated in criminal charges.

The elder Tillman is best known as the city's bail bonds king - he controls a large chunk of the business by charging fees that some of his competitors complain are improperly discounted. Last year, Tillman was cleared on charges that he and his licensed bondsmen illegally "double-posted" properties to free people from jail, meaning he used a single property as collateral for more than one bond at the same time.

Tillman has had several other brushes with the law over the years: He was convicted of failing to file tax returns from 1990 to 1992; attempted bribery of a member of Baltimore's zoning board, which was trying to close Tillman's nightclub; and obstructing justice by not reporting to Maryland authorities a conviction in New Jersey.

In the early 1990s, federal authorities reported that Tillman owned a bail bonds business, a teen nightclub called Odell's, and an interest in 31 residential rental properties. Although the club has closed, property records show that Tillman and his family's real estate holdings had more than doubled in recent years.

In addition to the properties that were auctioned off and those facing foreclosure, the city has moved to acquire three of his properties for redevelopment purposes as part of the second phase of the East Baltimore Development Inc. project. Court records indicate that he recently sold two properties to the city for $60,000, and that other properties remain in dispute.

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