Maryland homebuilder is indicted in Delaware


Builder Jerome J. Kendall, accused of leaving dozens of Maryland homeowners with unfinished houses and unpaid bills over a 12-year span, has been indicted again in Delaware. A grand jury returned 40 counts of theft and misuse of funds totaling more than $100,000 from six custom home buyers.

Assistant Delaware Attorney General Thomas A. Stevens said yesterday that the grand jury in New Castle County returned the indictments Monday. Mr. Kendall, who is on probation for a federal bank fraud conviction in Maryland in 1992, will likely remain free on $13,000 cash bail, Mr. Stevens said.

It is the second time since December that Mr. Kendall, who left a string of angry customers and suppliers from Baltimore County to Ocean City during the 1980s, has been indicted in Delaware. His December indictment on identical charges involved a home he is accused of leaving unfinished in Cecil County, Md. The charges were lodged in Delaware because the contracts were signed there.

Attempts to reach Mr. Kendall and his attorney yesterday were unsuccessful.

The December indictment prompted Del. A. Wade Kach, a Baltimore County Republican, to introduce a bill that would make misuse of a custom home purchaser's money a felony with a maximum 15-year prison term. The crime currently is a misdemeanor.

The bill has passed the House of Delegates and is before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. If enacted, it would become part of Maryland's 1986 Custom Home Protection Act, which was inspired by Mr. Kendall's activities in Baltimore County.

While home improvement contractors are licensed and bonded throughout Maryland, new home builders are licensed only in Montgomery County.

Mr. Stevens said the criminal theft charges in Delaware were prompted by a long history of allegations that Mr. Kendall contracted to build custom homes and then walked off the job with customers' money after failing to pay subcontractors and suppliers.

Like dozens of others who contracted with Mr. Kendall over the past 12 years, Elizabeth Cadiz said yesterday that she and her husband, Anthony, hired Mr. Kendall, formerly known as Jerry Knoedler, after he was recommended by a local real estate agent near their home in Milford, Del.

They signed a $169,000 contract in December 1993 for a house and three-car garage to be built on their lot within 90 days. The builder walked off the unfinished job with $25,000 of their money in September 1994, Mrs. Cadiz said.

She said they had to pay another $40,000 to finish the house and owe another $5,000 to subcontractors.

Mrs. Cadiz said she expects no money back because Mr. Kendall has filed for bankruptcy protection. He also filed for bankruptcy in 1983, before starting a series of jobs in Baltimore County.

In March 1992, he was indicted by a federal grand jury in Baltimore on three counts of bank fraud. He pleaded guilty to one count of defrauding Peninsula Bank in Salisbury by submitting a false financial statement to obtain a $112,000 loan. He was sentenced to 10 months in prison.

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