William Kyndall Francis built his property management business from his basement, growing it to 100 employees before being caught stealing from clients.
Francis, 39, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Baltimore on Tuesday to 42 months in federal prison for wire fraud after taking money from at least 51 homeowner and condominium associations, which had hired his firm to provide financial and property services.
Francis, who owned Columbia-based Legacy Investment and Management, Inc. and Legacy Investment and Management, LLC, appeared in the courtroom in a dark suit and spoke at length, asking the judge for a lesser sentence for the sake of his two children. Francis also repeatedly expressed remorse to the victims who lost $2.5 million in funds intended for savings or money market accounts, and to cover their long term and unexpected capital expenses, authorities said.
Francis also apologized to his children, who were not present. He spoke about how he grew up without a father and did not want his children to have similar difficulties in childhood.
"I let them down, I've embarrassed them," he said.
Judge Ellen L. Hollander said she felt Francis' statements were moving and thoughtful, and went below sentencing recommendations by the U.S. Attorney's Office of between 51 and 63 months. But she noted the large amount of money involved, which she said warranted a longer sentence than requested by Francis' attorney, who asked for 24 months.
"I think this case, like so many I see, is very difficult," said Hollander, who described Francis as "a good person who did a very bad thing."
Authorities said Francis spent the stolen funds on personal and business expenses, such as $7,000 for a dog grooming service, more than $2,000 to a nail salon, nearly $4,000 at adult entertainment clubs, and $2,000 on limousines.
He also spent another $40,000 for payroll for Legacy Inc. employees.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathleen O'Connell Gavin called Francis' actions a "calculated, long-running fraud scheme."
"He gained the trust of the people who were volunteer board members," who often lacked experience in property management, Gavin said.
Arthur Blume, a board member with the Whiskey Bottom South Condominium Association in Laurel, said his development lost $50,000 that could not be recouped through insurance. He said homeowners association fees had gone up to pay for infrastructure improvements, and that funds stolen by Francis could have helped offset those expenses.
The victims at his complex are "not a community of million-dollar condos," he said.
Francis also was ordered to pay $93,000 in restitution serve three years supervised probation following his sentence.