Alan Christian, the one-time talk show host whose dream of building a communications empire ended in virtual bankruptcy and a criminal investigation, pleaded guilty yesterday in Baltimore Circuit Court to fraudulent misappropriation of funds and violating the Maryland Securities Act.
Christian's partner, Grace M. Starmer, pleaded guilty to the same charges. They both will be sentenced Nov. 30.
Christopher J. Romano and Norman L. Smith of the state attorney general's office said they will recommend that each be sentenced to eight years, but that most of those sentences be suspended so Christian would get six months in a halfway house and Starmer would serve nine months under house arrest.
The defendants must repay the $678,000 they received from more than 800 Maryland investors who contributed to Atlantic Coast Radio, Inc., the company upon which Christian had hoped to build his empire.
"I'm surprised you weren't charged with out and out theft," Judge Edward J. Angeletti told Christian and Starmer after hearing the statement of facts.
From June 1988, when Christian was fired from WFBR radio in Baltimore, to November 1989, when complaints by investors reached the office of the Maryland securities commissioner, Christian and his associates engaged in what Mr. Smith called "a desperate attempt" to get enough money build Atlantic Coast Radio.
"We recognize that the letter of the law has been broken. I want to be very clear on that," Christian said after yesterday's hearing. "We're not here to point blame at anyone else. We're here to take blame."
Initially, Christian's supporters sent money to keep him on the air. By September 1988, however, Christian and his associates had formed Atlantic Coast Radio Inc. and were seeking investors to help the company buy radio stations.
According to the statement of facts, one of the first letters sent to investors in September 1988 assured them that "any money received toward this project will be deposited in an escrow fund and will not be released until the deal is completed."
A month later, attorneys from the Piper & Marbury law firm met with Christian and his associates and told them their solicitation and receipt of more than $500,000 from more than 700 investors violated state and federal securities laws.
However, Christian and his associates plunged on. They started dipping into the supposedly inviolate escrow fund, exhausting it by the spring of 1989. When the defendants' lawyers learned the truth, the lawyers immediately stopped working for Christian and his associates.