Published January 27. 2014 12:00PM Updated January 27. 2014 11:45PM
Norwich businessman Zane Megos, accused of taking rent deposits for apartments and houses in Norwich and New London that never became available, told a judge Monday that he wants to clear his name at a trial.
Megos, 56, of 31 Dellwood Road, Norwich, had been offered a plea deal that would have reduced felony larceny charges to misdemeanors with no prison time. Now, the cases will be scheduled for trial.
Megos and his attorney, Kenneth Leary, appeared before New London Superior Court Judge John M. Newson Monday and rejected the plea offer, which Leary agreed was “generous,” so that Megos can clear his name in court before a jury.
Megos was arrested in June and August of 2012 on several larceny charges and again in November 2013 for violation of a court order that said he was not to take new deposits for apartments while the charges were pending. The November arrest came after a three-month police investigation into new allegations that Megos had taken deposits for apartments and a commercial salon at 100 Main St., a condemned building.
Leary said the larceny cases should have been considered civil matters and should have been taken to small claims court by the alleged victims. He said some cases dated back three years when they were brought to Norwich police and only after stories in The Day gave publicity to numerous other civil actions against Megos for similar cases.
Newson, however, said “a number of judges have disagreed” with Leary’s claim that the cases should have been referred to civil court by signing criminal arrest warrants against Megos.
With the plea deal rejected, Megos faces one count of second-degree larceny, a Class C felony, carrying a prison sentence of one to 10 years and a fine of up to $10,000; two counts of third-degree larceny, a Class D felony, carrying a sentence of one to five years and a fine of up to $5,000; and three counts of fourth-degree larceny, a misdemeanor carrying a sentence of up to one year and a fine of up to $2,000.
Megos also faces third-degree assault and breach of peace charges by Norwich police stemming from a March 2012 altercation with one of the alleged larceny victims who had confronted Megos to ask for his deposit money back.
The plea offer was made in October — prior to the arrest for a violation of a court order — during an appearance before Judge Hillary B. Strackbein.
Newson said the plea offer now is “rejected and withdrawn,” and if Megos wished to seek a new offer in the future it likely would be “worse” than the offer rejected Monday.
During Monday’s court appearance, Newson allowed Katie Kennedy, who has a civil judgment against Megos totaling $7,393, to address the court regarding the plea offer and pending trial. Leary objected to her request, saying she was not one of the six alleged criminal victims, but Newson allowed her comments and said if the issue is raised at a future trial, the judge can order her comments disregarded.
Kennedy called herself “one of the original victims,” and complained to the court that Megos should not be offered a plea deal. She also complained that the case has taken too long to be resolved.
“(Megos) has shown no remorse and needs to be punished criminally and financially,” Kennedy said.
Newson interrupted her comments regarding the plea deal, since Megos had decided to reject the offer.
Kennedy won a judgment in February 2012 against Megos in New London Superior Court, but has not received her money back. According to her case, filed in April 2011 in New London Superior Court, Kennedy said she gave Megos money for a security deposit and advanced rent for an apartment at 25 Rogers Ave., Norwich, a building that was condemned at the time.
In the courthouse hallway after rejecting the plea deal, Leary repeated that the cases are civil in nature dealing with rental deposits for apartments that were delayed in being ready for various reasons. He said Megos’ business is to buy derelict buildings, fix them up and rent them out. Sometimes inspections by building officials delay the process.
“He’s not in the business of renting abandoned buildings,” he said.
Leary said he hopes that the negative publicity in the newspaper has not prejudiced a potential jury. He also has filed a motion to move the trial to Middletown Superior Court, citing negative publicity in the media in the local area.
Leary said Megos is aware that he is taking a chance in rejecting the plea deal and seeking a trial.
“He wants to clear his name,” Leary said. “He’s running a big risk. I told him it’s a big risk.”