A state prosecutor confirmed yesterday that an investigation into the EnterTRAINment Line's handling of deposits and payment of vendors is continuing and that he expects to take information to a Carroll County grand jury Sept. 8.
"I felt that, at this point in the investigation, it would be good idea to have some people come before the grand jury and testify under oath," said Jerome E. Joyce, the Carroll County assistant state's attorney who is looking into complaints about the Union Bridge excursion train's financial dealings.
The EnterTRAINment line, which closed its doors in May, operated weekly dinner trains out of Westminster and Union Bridge. The line also offered murder mystery trains and rides with holiday characters for children.
EnterTRAINment's owners ran into financial difficulties when a Maryland Tax Court judge ruled in April that they owed at least $300,000 in amusement taxes, interest and penalties that had accrued since 1989. The amusement tax is levied by individual jurisdictions, but is collected by the state.
In addition, the train line failed to pay Maryland Midland Railway this spring for the use of its locomotives and tracks. Maryland Midland then refused to allow EnterTRAINment to use the tracks, and the excursion company shut down.
Company officials Steven Hamilton and Donald S. Golec have since named a lawyer to sell EnterTRAINment's assets and distribute the money to creditors, a process that is similar to a corporate bankruptcy.
Among the defunct rail line's 500 creditors are community groups, such as Girl Scout troops and senior citizen organizations that had sent deposits for train trips scheduled this summer and fall. The checks have been cashed, but the trips were canceled.
Before a court hearing yesterday on related bad check charges against Mr. Golec, Mr. Joyce told him that the grand jury would be part of a criminal investigation.
Mr. Joyce confirmed the investigation to The Sun in an interview later yesterday, but declined to comment on the specifics of it.
According to charging documents filed in Carroll District Court, the bad check charges against Mr. Golec stem from the nonpayment of Beatnick Productions of Baltimore for entertainment services in December.
Paul Skotarski, owner of Beatnick, said in the documents that Mr. Golec paid the company $2,655 by check. When the check bounced, Mr. Golec wrote one to cover the first check and another to cover $2,660 worth of additional services.
The court papers said that Mr. Golec stopped payment on both those checks.
The felony case, which was scheduled for District Court yesterday before Judge JoAnn Ellinghaus-Jones, was postponed until Nov. 7 because Mr. Golec came to court without an attorney.
Although he had been advised to retain a lawyer during his initial appearance in May, Mr. Golec told Judge Ellinghaus-Jones that the public defender's office had improperly evaluated his ability to pay for counsel and rejected his request for legal help.
Mr. Golec said that when he found he could not afford to retain a private attorney, he returned to the public defender's office and was told his situation would be re-evaluated.
"I ordinarily wouldn't do this, but you do have unusual circumstance," Judge Ellinghaus-Jones said in granting the postponement.
Mr. Golec declined to comment yesterday about his bad-check charges and the EnterTRAINment line investigation.