Paul A. Toneman, the Silver Spring promoter who lured investors into a grandiose but nonexistent new-town development scheme on Maryland's Eastern Shore, was found guilty Saturday night of defrauding five area doctors and businessmen of almost $100,000.
The 62-year-old Toneman, who told investors that the $1 billion new town he was developing near Ocean City was financed by millions in Arab petro-dollars, faces a maximum of 70 years in prison for his conviction on seven counts of false pretenses.
Montgomery Circuit Judge David L. Cahoon granted a request by Toneman's defense lawyer for a psychological examination and ordered a presentencing investigation. Cahoon continued Toneman's $10,000 bond until his sentencing Nov. 17.
The jury returned the verdict about 8 p.m. Saturday after 13 hours of deliberation following a three-week trial that focused on Toneman's efforts to promote the imaginary "Patone Village" in rural Worcester County.
Toneman was accused of defrauding Fairfax dentist Dr. John F. Phillips of $32,500 and retired Silver Spring Businessman, Frederick P. Babcock of $25,000 by promising each the exclusive right to operate a cable television operation in Patone Village. Three other area doctors, Joseph T. Inglefield, of Falls Church, and Anthony Jean-Jacques and Frank A. Camp, of Columbia, Md., contributed $7,500 each for the right to operate a hospital in what Toneman was promoting as "the Eastern Shore's Columbia."
These five men were the last in a long line of smaller investors who included architects, policemen, firemen, and doctors who gave Toneman money for his scheme, according to testimony. Some people invested their life savings and others quit their jobs to go to work for Toneman, testimony showed.
In addition to 60,000 homes selling for as little as $31,500 each, the imaginary community would have featured a police force larger than Washington, a plush yacht club on Chincoteague Bay and "the world's largest shopping center" at which Patone residents could shop from home by closed-circuit television.
TOneman told potential investors he had the backing of eight oil-rich Arab countries and was pledged a loan of $600 million from an Arab banker, Muhammad M. Abushadi.
At the trial, Abushadi, chairman of Union Banques Arab Francaises, a consortium of Arab banks, testified that he had ignored several requests by Toneman to invest in the proposed new town. The prosecution contended that Toneman forged a letter from Abushadi that said he would lend Toneman $600 million.
Babcock, who called his $32,500 loss an "expensive lesson," said that "the thought that those Arab petro-dollars would come back to this country and put people to work appealed to me."
Babcock said Toneman "was so convincing, I didn't think he was a scoundrel - until the trial I can't help but feel sorry for him personally but I'm glad he won't be able to do this to other people."
During the investigation that led to Toneman's indictment last February it was discovered that he had no recognizable assests or line of credit. According to former associates, he lived almost hand-to-mouth. "He peddled the blue sky, with a rope holding up his pants," said one self-described former friend.