A Circuit Court judge last month convicted a Temple Hills man of 11 theft and fraud counts in connection with a scheme in which the defendant stole money from renters who had poor credit, Prince George's prosecutors said.
Following a three-week trial, County Circuit Court Judge Julia B. Weatherly on May 23 convicted Lamondes D. Williams, 35, of felony theft, conspiracy to commit aggregate theft over $500, and running a pyramid promotional scheme, county prosecutors said.
Williams was acquitted of two counts of defrauding property management companies, officials said. Each of the counts Williams was convicted of involved the defrauding of individual renters, prosecutors said.
Williams waived his right to a jury trial in favor of being tried by a judge.
After she announced her verdict, Weatherly revoked Williams's $300,000 bond and ordered sheriff's deputies to take him into custody. Williams remained in the Prince George's jail pending sentencing, which is scheduled for July 15.
In a telephone interview, Williams, who did not testify, maintained his innocence and said he did not get a fair trial.
"It was very unfair. We never had a chance to put on a defense," Williams said. He said he planned to appeal the verdict.
Last year, Williams said, his company paid between $400,000 and $500,000 in rent on behalf of clients.
Williams said he had made some poor business decisions. He said his conflicts with clients should have been a civil, not criminal, matter.
Williams faces a maximum sentence of up to 31 years in prison and a $10,000 fine, officials said.
In a plea agreement, Williams's co-defendant, Kimberly L. Alston, 26, of Suitland, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit theft of more than $500 and testified against Williams. Alston had worked with Williams at the Professional Sales Group.
In exchange for her testimony, Alston will be sentenced to time served for the approximately two months she spent in jail after her arrest early this year, and will also be placed on probation, said Douglas J. Wood, Alston's attorney.
According to prosecutors, Williams ran a Greenbelt company called the Professional Sales Group, which said it could help people rent an apartment regardless of their credit rating.
The firm said it would lease an apartment on behalf of a client, who in turn would sublease the unit from the firm. In other words, the firm would act as a middleman for people who could not otherwise rent an apartment because of poor credit.
Prosecutors alleged that Williams stole more than $200,000 from at least 65 renters who signed up for his advertised service.
Some victims said they paid Williams's firm thousands of dollars upfront, only to learn within a few weeks or a few months that they were behind in their rent.
For example, Elaine Hayes said in an interview in January that last July, she paid Williams's firm $2,400 in cash for the first and last month's rent on a two-bedroom apartment in Avondale.
A few days after she moved into the apartment, Hayes said, someone from Williams's firm told her another month's rent was already due in two weeks. A few weeks later, Hayes said, the rental office of her apartment building notified her that her first month's rent had not been paid.
Hayes was one of about 20 individual victims who testified against Williams, said Assistant State's Attorney Isabel Mercedes Cumming, chief of the economic crimes unit. Cumming and Assistant State's Attorney Jennifer Japp prosecuted Williams.
In all, prosecutors presented 59 witnesses and 350 exhibits, Cumming said. Prosecutors plan to ask for restitution for the victims.
The case illustrated something that consumers should always be aware of, Cumming said. "If something seems too good to be true, it probably is."