City/County Digest


Grand jury indicts 11 accused of wire fraud, identity theft


A federal grand jury in Baltimore has returned an indictment in a complex case accusing 11 people of creating shell companies and fictitious business leases to secure financing for luxury automobiles and computer equipment.

The defendants include eight Baltimore residents: Brian D. Colston, 33; Eric S. LeCount, 35; Shannon Van Cleef Stark, 31; Dana E. Johnson, 29; Kevin M. Foreman, 34; Kirk L. Mitchell, 35; Charles L. Kemper Jr., 43; and William Duke Thompson, 35. Three California men are named in the indictment.


The defendants are charged in U.S. District Court in Baltimore with wire fraud, identity theft and mail fraud. As alleged in the indictment, the case involves a wire transfer of about $500,000 in unlawful financing proceeds from fraudulent lease applications.

Teen charged with stealing SUV with infant inside

Baltimore prosecutors have filed three criminal informations - similar to an indictment - charging a teen-ager in an incident in which a sport utility vehicle was stolen with an infant passenger inside last month, the state's attorney's office announced yesterday.

Brian Johnson, 18, of the 200 block of E. Lafayette Ave., was charged Monday with two counts of reckless endangerment and one count of vehicle theft, prosecutors said.

On July 8, Melchor Balete, 34, was dropping off his son to meet a bus when a thief jumped into his Ford Excursion in the 100 block of E. Mount Royal Ave. and took off with his 2-month-old daughter inside. Police found the girl unharmed minutes later in her car seat left next to a diaper bag a half-mile away. The vehicle was found abandoned a short time later.

Man gets 50 years in killing; victim was shot 20 times

A 28-year-old man was sentenced to 50 years in prison this week in Baltimore Circuit Court for a killing in which the victim was shot 20 times in an attempted robbery.

Chris Merritt of the 2500 block of Winchester St. was convicted in May of first-degree murder. The case was originally tried in 1998, but a second trial was granted because his first conviction was overturned by the Maryland Court of Appeals.


Merritt and co-defendant Artinus Shands were convicted in the killing in 1997 of Bryant Owens, who just before his death had won money in a dice game. Shands pleaded guilty and is serving 50 years. Merritt was handed a life sentence Monday, with all but half a century suspended.

Estimates panel to decide today on buying trash cans

The city's Board of Estimates is scheduled to decide today on the purchase of more than 55,000 black trash cans bearing the word "Believe."

The proposed $320,000 procurement of the 32-gallon trash cans and lids would raise the city's total of Believe receptacles to more than 110,000. The city has distributed 55,000 in neighborhoods such as Washington Village, Park Heights and Sandtown/Winchester.

If the purchase is approved, an additional 55,334 trash cans, made by Rubbermaid Commercial Products, would be distributed in several other neighborhoods. The board's agenda states that the city's Bureau of Solid Waste expects the trash cans will "contribute to a decline in the rat population and keep trash from being placed in alleys and lots." The mayor's Office of Neighborhoods will help oversee the effort to educate residents on the proper disposal of trash.

Free computer classes open to single parents


Free computer classes are available to single parents through a program that begins with an orientation tomorrow in Mount Vernon.

Along with basic and intermediate computer classes, the program will offer career counseling and job search workshops. It is open to single heads of households who are at least 30 years old.

The classes will take place at Maryland New Directions, a nonprofit career counseling and job placement agency, 611 Park Ave. Participants are asked to call 410-230-0630 to make an appointment for the orientation. Other orientation sessions will be held Aug. 14, 21 and 28.


Patapsco Bank collecting school supplies for center

PARKVILLE - The Patapsco Bank is seeking school supplies for children at the Family Crisis Center of Baltimore County, particularly clothing, backpacks, crayons, glue sticks, notebooks, pencils, rulers and pens.


The collection will run until Aug. 31, and items can be dropped off at any of the bank's three branches, 1301 Merritt Blvd. in Dundalk, and 8705 Harford Road and 1844 E. Joppa Road in Parkville.

Essex campus schedules its Pre-College Institute

ESSEX - The Community College of Baltimore County's Essex campus will hold its Pre-College Institute from Monday to Aug. 29 on its campus at 7201 Rossville Blvd.

The institute helps students develop skills for academic success in college and gives them an opportunity to complete developmental coursework before the fall semester.

Registration and information: CCBC Essex Student Success Center, 410-780-6820.

Program informs seniors about crime in community


TOWSON - Seniors wishing to be alerted when a crime occurs in their community can contact Operation TRIAD - Telephone Reassurance Information Auto Dial - a cooperative effort of Baltimore County police, the sheriff's office and the Department of Aging.

Operation TRIAD cards are available in Baltimore County senior centers, libraries or by calling 410-887-2594.