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Four-year prison sentence sought for home builder

March 09, 1999|By MARLO BARNHART

Citing an ongoing problem in the community with shady homebuilders, Assistant Washington County State's Attorney Joe Michael asked for a four-year prison sentence for a builder convicted Tuesday of violating an escrow statute.

But Washington County Circuit Judge Donald Beachley instead postponed sentencing Ronald Jeffrey Kline for 90 days to give him time to make $4,000 in restitution.

Kline, 32, of 17914 Oak Ridge Drive, chose to plead not guilty and to be tried by Beachley on the one count of the Maryland Real Property statutes.

Christopher and Dawn Gist testified they signed a contract with Kline in August 1997 for lot 110 in Maugans Meadows, paying $1,000 down and then $4,000 more, all of which by law was to be placed in an escrow account and not spent.

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After a change of plans, the $1,000 later was returned on request to the Gists.

The Gists made several calls to Kline, who trades as J&J Custom Homes, to get the $4,000 back, to no avail.

Robert Spencer of Home Federal Savings Bank testified the Gists' $4,000 check was cashed by Kline.

Investigator Chris Weaver of the Washington County Sheriff's Department testified Kline told him he used the money to pay for water and sewer hookup to the Gists' lot, a violation of the escrow requirement of the law.

"He told me he was waiting for a refund from the county so he could pay them back," Weaver said.

Michael said that when that refund came through, Kline didn't pay the Gists.

"He got a $2,050 refund from the county in February 1998 and still he didn't pay them back. Indeed he spent it again," Michael said.

Defense attorney Scott Borison told Beachley that Kline doesn't have the money to pay the Gists. Noting that bankruptcy is a factor, Borison said Kline is trying to refinance his house or get a loan.

Kline was allowed to remain free on personal recognizance for the 90 days.

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