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Former owner of Empire Towers pleads guilty in fraudulent bond scheme

The former owner of the Empire Towers, the prominent high-rise on Ritchie Highway in Glen Burnie, has pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Baltimore in a fraudulent $7 million bond scheme. Wilfred T. Azar, III, 53, formerly of Queenstown, pleaded guilty Wednesday to securities fraud and filing a false tax return. According to the plea agreement, Azar's company, Empire Corp., could no longer pay its expenses by January 2006 and was effectively insolvent, yet still sold bonds to more than 50 individual investors for more than $7 million. Prosecutors said Azar used the bond proceeds to buy a $100,000 Aston Martin, pay his mortgage, buy season tickets to the Ravens and pay his country club dues. Sentencing is set for Aug. 12.

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Lawsuit claims Md. departments violated ADA

A Maryland correctional officer is suing the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, alleging the department violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by denying him reasonable accommodations for his temporary vision impairment. After forcing Daniel Price to take five months of unpaid leave, the state Department of Budget and Management — which is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit — billed Price for the entire cost of his health insurance plan and did not inform him of his right to continued coverage under the Public Health Services Act, the complaint states.

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Bookkeeper pleads guilty to embezzling $1.3M from Baltimore nonprofits

A bookkeeper who worked for four local nonprofits has pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Baltimore to embezzling more than $1.3 million from them. According to prosecutors, Sharon Harrison, 48, of Rosedale, pleaded guilty Friday and agreed to a restitution order for the full amount of the losses, $1,306,797.70. The charge was federal program theft because all four nonprofits receive federal funding. Harrison worked for HEAL — Health, Education, Advocacy, Life Inc. — from 2005 to March 2011; Between Friends, Inc. from September 2008 to November 2011; Jobs, Housing & Recovery, Inc. (JHR) from May 2013 to February 2014; and Reservoir Hill Improvement Council (RHIC) from December 2012 to February 2014. Prosecutors said Between Friends took the biggest hit: $976,898.

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Board of Estimates approves $35K settlement in officer’s discrimination suit

Kimberly Broyles claimed in her lawsuit that she suffered brain trauma after when she was injured in June 2009 while trying to subdue a drunk suspect and continues to have physical and mental problems. But after Broyles returned to work, supervisors recommended her for the Medical Leave and Abuse Control Program, which is "designed for officers who abuse non-line-of-duty medial leave," according to her lawsuit.

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Crash on B-W Parkway leads to murder charge

A fatal car crash on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway back in March has resulted in charges of second-degree murder against a 27-year-old District Heights man. The indictment by a federal jury in Greenbelt was returned Monday and unsealed Tuesday after the man, Anthony Lamont Payne, was arrested. Payne is charged in a March 20 crash that killed 19-year-old Terrance Lagrue of Silver Spring. Park Police said the crash occurred on the parkway near U.S. 50 in Prince George’s County. Authorities say Lagrue’s car was hit by another, and Lagrue’s car was forced off the road, then rolled over and burst into flame.

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Asset manager at Bethesda firm pleads guilty in $5M fraud scheme

An asset manager for a Bethesda company identified as the second largest special servicer of commercial real estate mortgages in the United States has pleaded guilty to wire fraud in a scheme to steal more than $5 million from the firm. As a special servicer, the company was responsible for administering defaulted commercial mortgage loans and the real estate securing foreclosed loans. According to the U.S. attorney’s office, which reported Wednesday’s plea in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, the company collected borrower payments and property cash flow and remitted them to a trust that distributed those funds to the certificate holders. Authorities said the manager, Max Wagenblast, 35, of Arlington, Va., who oversaw both the loans and the properties that acted as security, admitted that he redirected a portion of the funds collected from the properties he managed into the bank accounts of three limited liability companies he controlled.

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EEOC sues Md. state insurance agency over pay discrimination

EEOC sues Md. state insurance agency over pay discrimination

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a class action lawsuit against the Maryland Insurance Administration, alleging the agency pays female employees lower wages than male employees for the same work. The suit was filed last week in U.S. District Court in Baltimore under the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which prohibits sex-based wage discrimination between workers at the same establishment performing jobs that require largely equal skills and effort. Since at least December 2009, the Maryland Insurance Administration has willfully paid female investigators and enforcement officers less than their male counterparts, the complaint states.

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