Former stockbroker Charles Zandford's first step at his sentencing in federal court yesterday was to fire his lawyer and take the case on himself.
His defense against charges of stealing the $400,000 life savings of an ill, elderly client and the client's disabled daughter?
He denied committing the crime, but said he could do little to prove his innocence because the client is dead and the daughter is not competent to testify.
U.S. District Judge William M. Nickerson bought none of it and sentenced him to 52 months in prison and a $10,800 fine.
In July, a jury had no trouble deciding the case. After three weeks of testimony, jurors took 90 minutes to find the former Dominick and Dominick broker guilty on all 13 fraud counts for draining more than $400,000 entrusted to him.
Zandford spent some of the money on Jaguar restorations, trips and his hobby as a pilot.
Other money was deposited into his and his girlfriend's bank accounts. He admitted nothing yesterday. After the judge imposed his sentence, Zandford asked that it be stayed pending appeal -- in part so he could dispose of the Jaguars. The judge refused.
"You're about to put a man in jail for something he hasn't really done," he told Judge Nickerson.
"The man who did all these things is dead. I'm fair game for whatever anyone wants to say about me."
Zandford, 43, of Rockville filed for bankruptcy in 1992, claiming no assets.
He expressed no remorse in court for what happened to William Wood's nest egg.
The money was to have been left to Mr. Wood's daughter, Diane Okstulski, who suffers from mental disabilities and a multiple personality disorder.
Zandford insisted he had not benefited by even a penny.
When Mrs. Okstulski asked to make a statement to the court yesterday, he objected, saying it would be necessary "to interview all 17 of her personalities to decide which one was going to testify."
The judge ignored the objections and said she had a right to speak.
"Charlie, I hate you for mistreating me," she said in her brief comments. "You took away my dreams and my hopes and my prayers."
Only after Mr. Wood died in 1991 at age 75, and two other Dominick brokers came under investigation, was the fraud discovered.
Between November 1987 and March 1988, Zandford had been given $419,255 to invest "conservatively," according to the instructions of Mr. Wood.
As Mr. Wood developed Alzheimer's disease and was placed in a nursing home, Zandford emptied his account.
By Sept. 28, 1990, the Wood account had a zero balance.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas DiBiagio said the sentence was appropriate.