No rancor over parole Depositors say Levitt did his time

Few people were happier when Jeffrey A. Levitt received a 30-year prison sentence in 1986 than the thousands of Old Court Savings and Loan depositors he swindled out of $14.6 million.

Now, 6 1/2 years later, many of the people who led the fight to get their money back say they think Levitt, the former president of Old Court, has served enough time.


Since Levitt went to jail, most depositors got back their principal -- without the interest they would have earned during the nearly five years their accounts were frozen -- and the outrage has waned.

The news that Levitt will be paroled in November 1993, after serving just over a quarter of his sentence, does not bother the former Old Court depositors reached yesterday.


"Enough is enough," said Jacqueline Shapos of Towson, who was a party in an unsuccessful $800 million lawsuit filed against Levitt in 1985.

"We suffered with it for four years. He suffered in jail for seven . . . His suffering was twice ours," Ms. Shapos said. "I don't think anybody should be put away forever and a day. It's not like he committed murder."

Eliot W. Annable of New Windsor in Carroll County said he's not sure if there's much point in keeping Levitt in prison.

"My general attitude is, no matter what happens to him, it can't make up what I lost," said Mr. Annable, who lost about $1,000 a month in interest, a total of $50,000, during the nearly five years his account was tied up.

"I don't think there's anything that really makes up for the hardship he caused other people," he said. "But whether keeping a guy in jail and taking his life away, if that makes up for it, I don't know."

"I wanted to kill the guy at first,"said Bert Kozlowski, who was co-chair of the Maryland Depositors Committee, a group that pressured legislators to cover the depositors' losses. But compared to the sentences other savings and loan officials have received in federal court, Levitt received a stiffer punishment for crimes that were less serious.

"I don't like it, but I have to look at the overall picture, and the overall picture of what happened to others who did far more than he did, I say let the guy go," Mr. Kozlowski said. "I think it was just one of those things that I can't blame Levitt totally for. I blame the state. They didn't do their job. I blame the feds. They didn't do their job."

Said Ronald Rogers, who was president of the Old Court Depositors Coalition, "It was never a surprise to me. I always thought that he would never serve more than seven years.


"Personally, I would rather see him stay in there a couple more years," Mr. Rogers said.

"I guess in the long run it's not going to do us any good to have him stay in jail any longer . . . He destroyed a lot of lives. And quite frankly, if he stayed in there for 30 years, it's not going to repair and bring back what people lost."

But Mr. Rogers said that not everyone who suffered as a result of Levitt's dealings has such a benign attitude.

"I had people say to me, 'If he ever comes out, I'm going to get him,' " Mr. Rogers said.

"And I think there are still some people who may still have that feeling. I saw people lose their spouses as a result of this."

As a condition of his probation, Levitt will have to serve 2,000 hours of community service and pay an undisclosed amount of restitution.


But Ellen Katz of Pikesville, who was active in the Old Court Depositors Coalition, said depositors have long suspected that Levitt squirreled away large sums of money in bonds and urged authorities to keep an eye on him.

"Levitt should be under close supervision for many years to come to monitor and perhaps recover hidden assets," Ms. Katz said.

And Mr. Rogers said he doesn't think Levitt's parole date will be the last heard from him: "I don't know whether he has really, really learned his lesson. Somebody like that doesn't change."