The case against Mr. Christian and his associate, Grace M. Starmer, was initiated in 1988 by the Maryland Securities Division, which is part of the attorney general's office. It charged that Mr. Christian told investors he planned to buy radio stations NTC and make movies, among other enterprises, but that Mr. Christian and his associates engaged in a "desperate attempt" to get enough money to build Atlantic Coast Radio. Many of the investors placed just a few hundred dollars with Mr. Christian; several invested more than $10,000. A few members of one family put up about $22,000. According to case records, one of the first letters sent to investors in September 1988 assured them that "any money received toward this project will be deposited in an escrow fund and will not be released until the deal is completed."
But Mr. Christian and his colleagues began using funds from the supposedly inviolate escrow fund, exhausting it by early 1990. After pleading guilty to embezzlement and violations of the Maryland Securities Act in November of that year, Mr. Christian and Ms. Starmer, a vice president of Atlantic Coast Radio, were given five-year suspended sentences. Mr. Christian was ordered do 1,500 hours of community service work and pay $679,894 in restitution.