Former Old Court Savings & Loan president Jeffrey Levitt, who is weighing a plea of guilty on Monday to theft and misappropriation of depositors' funds, has begun cooperating with state officials in their criminal probe of other Old Court officials.
Levitt, his lawyers and representatives of the state attorney general's office had a "long session" recently in which Levitt provided information about the now-defunct thrift, according to a source close to the case.
Levitt faces a 25-count indictment charging him with taking $14.6 million from Old Court and another thrift. In exchange for his plea, Levitt would agree to make full restitution, and receive a prison term of 12 to 20 years, sources said. The actual length of the sentence would be left up to Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Edward J. Angeletti and depend in part on the degree to which Levitt cooperates with state prosecutors.
Whether Levitt finally agrees to the guilty plea on the criminal charges depends on whether his lawyers can negotiate a settlement in a separate, civil suit, sources said. Levitt and his wife Karol, along with other former Old Court directors and officials, are defendants in the $200 million civil suit filed by the Maryland Deposit Insurance Fund, the state agency overseeing Old Court's affairs.
This morning, a crowd of about 25 depositors, angry over news of the possibility of a plea bargain between the state and Levitt, picketed outside state Attorney General Stephen H. Sachs' office in downtown Baltimore. The pickets, members of a statewide depositors' committee, carried placards reading "Another Inside Deal by Levitt" and "Depositors Got No Special Deals -- No Plea Bargaining for Levitt!"
Three representatives of the depositors' group met privately with Sachs for about an hour shortly before the demonstration began. Afterward, Leonard Levy, a spokesman for the depositors, said he was still opposed to a plea bargain for Levitt, but he said Sachs "did enlighten us to some aspects of the total case."
In an interview later, Sachs refused to discuss the offer his office has made to Levitt, citing Angeletti's instructions that lawyers involved in the case not make any public statements. But if a plea bargain is reached, he said, he believes the penalties against Levitt will be at least as stiff as any that would have resulted from a trial.
Levitt is about a third of the way through an 18-month prison sentence he received for violating court-ordered spending limits that were imposed to protect his assets for possible recovery in the event the state prevailed in its civil suit.
Recent press reports have raised the possibility that Levitt might be freed from his contempt sentence early as part of a settlement of the civil suit. Under that arrangement, he would be freed if he pleaded guilty to the criminal charges and remain free until sentenced on those charges -- a period as long as 45 days.
Sachs, commenting on those reports, said his office was not involved in any such negotiations and is "vehemently" opposed to the suggestion.
"That's a terrible idea," he said. If it happens, he said, Levitt would have to be watched around the clock to be sure he does not try to flee. "I'm opposed to Levitt being on the street for 10 minutes," Sachs said.
Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Joseph H.H. Kaplan, who is overseeing the civil suit and who sentenced Levitt in January for contempt of court, could order an end to Levitt's prison term on the contempt charge. Kaplan could not be reached for comment yesterday on whether he intends to do so.
Sachs would not discuss the progress of his Pickets carried placards reading, "Another Inside Deal by Levitt," and "Depositors Got No Special Deals -- No Plea Bargaining for Levitt!" office's investigation of two other major Old Court figures -- Allan Pearlstein and Jerome Cardin -- but, repeating a vow he has made in the past, he said, "There will be further charges against other Old Court officials."
Besides Levitt, only one other Old Court figure, Ocean City developer Walter Otstot, has been indicted.