Woman with ties to Dixon indicted

The Baltimore Sun

Mildred E. Boyer, a minority subcontractor with ties to City Council President Sheila Dixon, was charged yesterday with theft, lying on loan documents and filing false tax returns, according to a city grand jury indictment released by the Maryland state prosecutor.

The nearly 10-month state investigation into Boyer and her company, Utech, was spurred by articles in The Sun this year that showed Dixon had participated in hearings that benefited the firm without saying that her sister had worked for Boyer's company.

Earlier this year the city stripped Utech of its eligibility to continue to win Baltimore government work as a minority subcontractor because officials found that it had misrepresented its finances and capabilities and did not perform most of its own work.

The indictment against Boyer, whose arraignment is scheduled for Jan. 17 in Baltimore Circuit Court, did not implicate Dixon's sister or the council president. State prosecutors refused to respond to a question about whether they were continuing their review of the 27,000 pages of subpoenaed documents related to Utech and a former council computer technician who used to be Dixon's campaign chairman.

Dixon, who will become mayor next month when Martin O'Malley is sworn in as governor, issued a brief statement yesterday.

"After reviewing the court papers it appears that none of the allegations in the indictment have anything to do with the city council or myself," Dixon said. "At this time, I maintain that it would be inappropriate for me to comment further on the investigation or the pending charges against Ms. Boyer."

Boyer's attorney, Lawrence Fletcher-Hill of Gordon Fleinblatt, declined to specifically comment on the charges yesterday.

The 10-count indictment against Boyer alleges that the 41-year-old Randallstown woman created numerous false invoices for city government contracts she did not have in order to dupe Atlanta, Ga.-based Action Capital Corp. into wiring her $193,736 in 2003.

Action had entered into an agreement with Boyer and her company, also known as Union Technologies LLC, assuming that Baltimore city would repay its loans to Utech.

Boyer is charged with six counts of making and issuing false and counterfeit orders for money, a felony that carries a minimum of two years in prison. Boyer is accused of one count of theft, a felony that carries a maximum 15-year penalty or a $25,000 fine.

In addition, she has been charged with two misdemeanor counts of filing false state tax returns and with lying on a car loan application with the Municipal Employees Credit Union.

The indictment indicates that Boyer used Action Capital's money to buy her home in the 3900 block of Whispering Meadow Drive in Randallstown.

She signed a contract to purchase her $125,000 home on Nov. 8, 2002, even though she had less than $500 in her bank accounts, according to the indictment.

On Nov. 22, 2002, she wrote a letter to the city's former purchasing agent, Arthur McNeal, proposing to take over a portion of a technology contract with the city. At about the same time, Boyer had been talking via e-mail about possible city work with Owen Tonkins, former director of Mayor Martin O'Malley's minority business development office, according to e-mails obtained by The Sun.

Tonkins would eventually help her secure a minority subcontracting stake in the city's information technology contract with TeleCommunications Systems Inc. (TCS) of Annapolis in 2003.

But on Nov. 26, 2002, before she was ever awarded any city work, the indictment accuses her of crafting a fake letter from the mayor's office that "supposedly awarded" Utech a contract worth $2 million.

The indictment says that the city official whose signature is on the letter, Mark Savoy, "did not sign the letter, did not write the letter and did not authorize any person to prepare or sign such letter."

On Dec. 5, 2002, Boyer applied to Action Capital requesting that the Atlanta firm wire money to Utech based on the payments the city would owe her on her false contract. The Atlanta firm wired her a total of $193,736 between Dec. 12, 2002, and June 3, 2003.

Four days later she put a $1,000 down payment on the house, money that was loaned to her by Adrian Harpool, co-owner of Baltimore-based Twenty First Century Group, a public relations and marketing firm, the indictment states. Harpool could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Once Action's money began to accumulate in Utech's account, Boyer withdrew $40,000 on January 30, 2003, and paid $35,000 at the settlement for her house the next day, according to prosecutors.

In August 2004, Boyer applied for a car loan with the employees credit union. She submitted several documents that prosecutors contend were false, the indictment states. One was a 2003 federal personal Form 1040 tax return that indicated her 2003 income from Utech was $67,735. Her state personal income tax return for 2003 had stated that her income from Utech was $30,073.

The federal form also indicated that it was prepared by Joan M. Pratt CPA and Associates. Pratt, the city's elected comptroller who is planning to run for mayor against Dixon next year, had said that her private accounting firm prepared Utech's taxes in 2002.

But the indictment states that "Pratt never prepared Boyer's 2003 federal personal tax return."

"I find it appalling that someone would forge my name or a document that states that I prepared something and I didn't," Pratt said yesterday.

In addition, Boyer submitted to the credit union a Utech payroll statement for 2004 that was prepared by Janice Dixon, the council president's sister. "In fact, Janice Dixon never prepared or signed the Boyer payroll statement," the indictment states.

At that time, in 2004, Utech had become a minority subcontractor with Baltimore's cable provider, Comcast Corp. In addition, TCS of Annapolis, which held the city's information technology contract, had begun in 2003 to use Utech as its minority subcontractor.

Utech's problems first surfaced when The Sun revealed earlier this year that Dixon advocated for Utech at a council hearing when she asked Comcast why it was no longer employing it and other firms as part of its commitment to employ minority and female subcontractors.

At the hearing Dixon did not say that her sister worked for Utech. She also had not listed her sibling's employment on her Board of Ethics disclosure form, which requires elected officials to disclose when relatives work for companies that do business with the city.

She said she had abstained from voting on city contracts awarded to firms employing Utech as a minority subcontractor. But a review of documents showed that Dixon did not abstain when the city's five-member spending board, which she chairs and O'Malley controls, awarded contracts to TCS, which had listed Utech as a minority subcontractor.

The city's ethics law prohibits public officials from participating in "any matter" that involves a sibling's interest or the interest of a relative's employer. It says public officials must recuse themselves from participating in such matters, if they have knowledge of their relative's position. Dixon staffers have said they did not alert the council president to Utech's involvement.

doug.donovan@baltsun.com

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