A Temple Hills man was sentenced yesterday to five years in prison for swindling more than 60 people out of more than $146,000 after promising that he would help them rent apartments and houses despite their bad credit.
After listening to anguished statements from five victims, Prince George's Circuit Court Judge Julia B. Weatherly set aside state guidelines that called for a sentence ranging from a term of probation to six months in jail for Lamondes D. Williams, 36.
Weatherly said Williams has enough personality and skills to succeed in life but chose to victimize vulnerable members of society: "People without much money, people with poor credit, people with young children who needed housing desperately."
She noted that Williams took as little as $500 from some victims but several thousand dollars from others.
Weatherly also ordered Williams to start paying $146,000 in restitution to his victims when he is released from prison; she ordered that he pay at least half his income until the debt is paid.
According to prosecutors, Williams and a co-defendant, Kimberly L. Alston, 26, ran Professional Sales Group out of a Greenbelt office and advertised in newspapers that the firm would help people with poor credit histories rent apartments.
The firm said it would lease an apartment on behalf of a client, who would sublease the unit from the firm.
Among the victims at yesterday's hearing was Cervantes Davis, 66. Davis said he paid Williams $2,275 for an apartment in Greenbelt. Four days after he moved into the unit, Davis said, he received notices from the management company that he was behind in his rent.
Because of his financial loss, Davis said he could not afford a dentist and pulled out three of his teeth himself. Davis said he now lives in a Suitland facility for senior citizens.
After a three-week trial, Weatherly convicted Williams of felony theft, conspiracy to commit aggregate theft over $500 and running a pyramid promotional scheme. Williams waived his right to a jury trial and chose to be tried by a judge.
Twenty of Williams's victims testified against him -- so did Alston, who helped Williams run the Professional Sales Group.
Alston pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit theft of more than $500. In exchange for her testimony, Alston was sentenced to time served, the approximately two months she spent in jail after her arrest this year.
Assistant State's Attorney Isabel M. Cumming said she was pleased with Williams's sentence, which she called one of the stiffest in recent memory for a fraud case in Maryland.
"It sends a strong message that fraudsters should stay out of Prince George's County," Cumming said.
During yesterday's hearing, Williams promised to make restitution, "the sooner the better." Williams, who in a recent interview maintained his innocence and said he did not get a fair trial, did not admit guilt.
Williams said that in business, "things happen. Mistakes happen."