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Norwich businessman Zane Megos, who is facing numerous criminal charges for allegedly taking deposits and rent money for apartments that were condemned or unavailable, paid $15,000 in restitution during his arraignment Friday in New London Superior Court.
Megos did not enter a plea, and the cases were continued to Sept. 14. He declined to comment after the court appearance.
Megos, 55, of 31 Dellwood Road, Norwich, was arrested by Norwich police June 22 on charges of second-degree larceny, third-degree larceny and three counts of fourth-degree larceny in separate cases involving people who allegedly paid him deposits for apartments or down payments on houses in Norwich and New London.
In March, Megos was arrested for third-degree assault and breach of peace stemming from an altercation with Carlos Carrion of Bozrah, who claimed he paid Megos $1,190 for an apartment at 75 Fourth St., which is condemned. The confrontation came as Carrion was attempting to get his money back, he told police at the time.
Megos was arrested for a third time Aug. 8 by Norwich police and charged with third-degree larceny. In 2009, an alleged victim paid Megos a down payment on a house at 107 Ocean Ave., New London, but never received a refund.
New London County Prosecutor Rafael Bustamante said the $15,000 Megos paid to the court would go toward restitution, but he could not say if that would be enough to cover all the money the alleged victims claimed they had paid Megos.
According to warrants for all the arrests to date, six alleged victims said they paid Megos a combined total of $17,375 in deposits either for apartments or houses.
An investigation by The Day this spring discovered more than a dozen would-be tenants who had given Megos deposits and advance rent money for apartments, mostly in Norwich and New London, that were either condemned or not owned by Megos or his companies.
Tenants described a pattern in which Megos would meet them in a local doughnut shop parking lot and accept the deposits, giving them paper receipts, but later would tell them the apartments weren't ready because renovations had been delayed for various reasons. When they attempted to obtain refunds, Megos either refused or failed to return calls or to show up for scheduled meetings.
According to the police warrant in the latest charge, Juan R. Cruz, 35, came to police on June 28 after reading in The Day that Megos had been arrested and seeing a photo of him. He told Norwich police Detective Darren Powers that he saw an ad for a "spacious" apartment on May 7, 2009, and called the number. Bishop Taylor, Megos' business partner, talked to Cruz and urged him to talk to Megos about buying a house rather than renting.
On May 9, Cruz paid Megos $1,500 in Norwich as a down payment for a house at 107 Ocean Ave. in New London. He showed the receipt to police.
The next day, Cruz and his fiancée met Megos at the house, but Megos told them they could not enter because of "an asbestos problem." Over the next few days, Cruz spoke to family members about the situation, and they expressed skepticism over the deal. Cruz decided he wanted his money back.
Powers wrote in the warrant that Megos at first told Cruz the bank had his money and a check would be mailed to him. Several days later Cruz called Megos, and Megos told him the check was in the mail.
"He called Megos several times over the next few months," the warrant stated. "Megos rarely returned his calls and if he did he would have some excuse as to why Cruz did not get his money back. Cruz stated after a while he gave up and figured he had been 'scammed.'"
Cruz reported the incident to police at the time but was told it was a civil matter. Several would-be tenants interviewed by The Day this spring said they were told the same thing by police. Some pursued cases in Connecticut Small Claims Court, winning judgments but rarely receiving payments.
Cruz said he went to police again in June after learning that Megos had been arrested for similar cases, including one involving the same house at 107 Ocean Ave.
According to New London tax records, the house at 107 Ocean Ave. was owned by the Bank of New York Trustee at the time Cruz made his deposit, but in August it was sold to Megos' company, Smithfield Associates, for $44,900. It was then immediately transferred to Blackstone Realty Investments LLC for the same amount. Blackstone sold it the following April.
In the third-degree larceny charge against Megos in June, Dawnn M. Harkness told Powers she paid Megos a total of $4,550 in several installments from July to November 2009 as a down payment on 107 Ocean Ave. Most of the payments were made at the former Tim Horton's doughnut shop on Route 82 in Norwich.
The house, however, never became available, and after numerous delays a friend told Harkness in April 2010 that someone else was moving into the house.