Insurance broker sentenced in theft


A Bel Air insurance broker who pleaded guilty last month to pocketing clients' insurance premiums and filing false state tax returns was sentenced last week to 23 years in prison with all but five years suspended.

William Thomas Tawney, 50, of the 1800 block of Prindle Drive told Circuit Judge Cypert O. Whitfill on Tuesday that he was very sorry and was doing everything possible to help himself. The judge scoffed.

"Frankly, I am not impressed with either your therapy or your remorse," the judge said.

While accepting the plea arrangement with a limit of five years to serve in prison, Judge Whitfill placed Tawney on five years of supervised probation upon his release, meaning that if he

violates his probation, he could be ordered to serve the 18 years that were suspended.

Assistant State's Attorney William G. Christoforo had argued for the maximum sentence of five years to serve, pointing out that the defendant took money for insurance premiums and used it to support a luxurious lifestyle.

Through testimony, Mr. Christoforo was able to convince Judge Whitfill that Tawney lived a life of luxury at his victims' expense.

"He belonged to two country clubs and ate dinner at expensive restaurants several times a week," the prosecutor said.

Anna Syriste of American & Overseas Travel Services in Bel Air said Tawney had purchased round-trip airfare to Charlotte, N.C., for a golf outing and told her that he would put a check for $182 in the mail.

The check did not arrive, she said.

Three weeks ago, she said, he promised to come to her office to pay but didn't.

Mike O'Connell of the Bel Air Corporate Center said that he leased office space to Tawney from 1991 to 1993 and that they became friends.

Mr. O'Connell said Tawney had planned a cruise in 1993 while owing $500 in back rent.

He said that Tawney gave him a check for the rent the day before leaving on the cruise but that the check bounced. When he returned from his vacation, Tawney told Mr. O'Connell that the bad check was the result of a bank error and that he had made arrangements to make it good.

"He always made arrangements, but he never followed through," Mr. O'Connell said.

Mr. Christoforo said Tawney made restitution of more than $1,900 after he was indicted by a Harford County grand jury in January.

"That amount does not include tax liabilities," he said.

Howard Grossfeld, a Baltimore County attorney representing Tawney, asked Judge Whitfill to delay the start of the sentence so his client could "prepare to begin his sentence."

The judge denied the request, saying Tawney had time to prepare since the day he pleaded guilty.

In other Circuit Court matters last week:

* Judge Whitfill ruled in favor of a Bel Air restaurant that had appealed a 10-day suspension of its license by the county Liquor Control Board last year.

In a written opinion, the judge ordered the liquor board not to enforce the suspension imposed by the Board of Appeals on Nov. 9. He said the business, GRXR of Bel Air Inc., which operates as the Ground Round in the Festival at Bel Air shopping center, was not responsible for the "poor judgment" of the restaurant manager, Maureen Gonzalez.

Court records show that liquor board inspectors found underage drinkers at the restaurant Aug. 31, 1994.

Judge Whitfill said that fact was not disputed and that the liquor board later absolved the employees and the restaurant of wrongdoing related to the allegation of serving alcohol to minors.

But the board did allege that Ms. Gonzales failed to cooperate with its investigation.

The judge said the owners did nothing to promote the manager's poor judgment and could not have anticipated it.

Stanley Getz, a Bel Air attorney who represented the liquor board, said Thursday that an appeal is unlikely. He said he has recommended that the liquor board revise its own rules and regulations.

* Eric Jon Stoddard, 34, of Abingdon has been named in a 23-count indictment involving three minor children on charges of rape, sexual offenses and child abuse at various times in 1990, 1991, 1994 and 1995.

* Kevin Ball, 25, of Havre de Grace received a 10-year sentence with all but one year suspended after he pleaded guilty to breaking into an old house used for storage in Belcamp and stealing fishing rods stored there.

The defendant must pay $1,200 in restitution to the victim, Walter Pleasant. He was given until Aug. 25 to report to the county jail and was made eligible for work release.

According to the statement of facts, Ball and a juvenile stole the rods April 14, 1993. Ball was a suspect from the beginning, because he had previously worked for the victim.

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