Hampstead condo groups regain access to frozen accounts


Prosecutors lifted a freeze on bank accounts held by four Hampstead condominium associations last week, giving the groups use of money that had been seized by the state nearly three weeks ago.

The bank accounts were under the management of Otis K. Comstock Sr., a Hampstead accountant and businessman under investigation by the State's Attorney's Office.

An investigator in the prosecutor's office confirmed the release of the accounts Thursday, but he declined to say how much money was being returned to the condominium associations.

State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman began investigating Mr. Comstock's businesses on July 20, when Carroll Sheriff John H. Brown was told of possible financial wrongdoing.

Investigators from the Maryland State Police and Mr. Hickman's office raided Mr. Comstock's offices July 24, seizing filing cabinets full of financial information.

They also froze 30 bank accounts at Union National Bank and an undisclosed institution that were controlled by Mr. Comstock. Mr. Hickman said the accounts totaled about $35,000, but some of those accounts did not belong to the condominium associations.

Accounts not belonging to the associations remain frozen, investigators said.

Mr. Hickman said that the associations, which represent over 150 Hampstead homeowners, have been bilked out of more than $90,000 since 1989.

No charges have been filed against Mr. Comstock, who is said to be cooperating with the investigation. Mr. Comstock's attorney, Wesley D. Blakeslee, did not return telephone calls last week.

Mr. Comstock's businesses -- CFS Inc., Meko Realty and Comstock Financial Services -- are included in the investigation.

Investigators are focusing on savings accounts and certificates of deposit held on behalf of the associations. Mr. Hickman alleged that Mr. Comstock may have given associations fraudulent balance sheets to mask unauthorized transfers of money from association accounts to his own.

Mr. Hickman told a meeting of about 100 homeowners last month that his office was attempting to return as much money as possible to the associations.

He said he was going to pursue the seizure of Mr. Comstock's assets, which include real estate, cars and bank accounts.

Mr. Comstock's real estate holdings in Carroll include five Hampstead condominiums and three Westminster homes. State Department of Assessments and Taxation records put a market value of his properties at about $600,000.

Mr. Hickman cautioned that restitution may be slow in coming and that there is a chance prosecutors may not be able to recover all that was stolen.

Mr. Comstock had been hired to manage the affairs of Roberts Fields Condo Association Inc.; Hampstead Properties, Condominium Inc.; Hampstead Valley Townhomes Condominium Inc.; and Hampstead Valley Garden Condominiums Inc. His was the only signature required to disburse funds for the associations.

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