As the former owner of the troubled Elkridge pet cemetery goes on trial today on charges he tricked bereaved pet owners, he is in defiance of a court order compelling him to pay about $70,000 to more than 100 cheated customers.
William A. Green is scheduled to stand trial today in Howard County District Court on theft charges.
Authorities say he gave owners of pets brought in for cremation the wrong ashes and billed them for the service.
If convicted in the three cases against him, the Sykesville resident -- who earned the ire of former Gov. William Donald Schaefer after a cemetery employee said Schaefer's dog had been kicked by employees before it was buried -- could receive as much as 15 years in jail.
Green -- who no longer owns the cemetery known as the Rosa Bonheur Memorial Park -- comes to court with county attorneys on his trail.
In February, Howard Circuit Judge James B. Dudley ordered Green to pay restitution -- within three months -- to about 100 pet owners who had not received the costly grave markers and other services they had paid for.
But officials at the County's Office of Consumer Affairs -- which filed the suit on behalf of angered pet owners -- said Green has not paid back any of the money. County attorneys plan to ask Dudley to find Green in contempt of court.
Senior Assistant County Solicitor Louis P. Ruzzi said if Green is found in contempt, he may have to pay a fine -- adding even more money to his restitution costs.
"His conduct has been pretty consistent," Ruzzi said. "All along he has ignored what the court has done. I'd say he's got serious trouble ahead."
Green, who did not respond to a message left on an answering machine at his home, also has defied an order to turn over all his financial records for an audit, county officials said.
Stephen D. Hannan, administrator of the county Office of Consumer Affairs, said the office has received about 100 complaints against Green since the county filed a lawsuit last October. These subsequent complaints are covered by the civil judgment, Hannan said.
"We fully intend to pursue the matter so we can do what is necessary to collect for our consumers," Hannan said.
But for pet owners who have animals at the cemetery, Green's noncompliance with the court order adds insult to injury.
Said Joyce Williams, who has two pets buried there: "I think it is a slap in the face to the people he owes money to."
Whether Green has sufficient assets to pay off his former customers under the civil judgment is a matter of debate -- as Green in the past has maintained he has limited assets and huge debts.
In March, an Ellicott City bank foreclosed on his mortgage for the pet cemetery after he defaulted. The bank is trying to sell the cemetery, which has buried among its 22,000 plots the pets of Schaefer and stripper Blaze Starr.
Bank officials said yesterday two or three people are interested in purchasing the cemetery -- and all of them want to maintain what has become an emotional landmark for many Maryland residents as a cemetery.
Green filed for bankruptcy in October, saying he had less than $50,000 in assets and owed $462,000 to 65 creditors. But a February bankruptcy filing made by his wife -- Bonnie -- states that Green earns $6,076 a month.
"I don't think he's broke," said Lynn Gregg, a senior investigator with the Office of Consumer Affairs. "A man who makes $6,000 a month can start paying off his debts. The cemetery customers are a good place to start."
Today, Baltimore resident Kenneth Walt is expected to testify that six days after Green delivered to him two urns purportedly holding the ashes of his dogs, Walt saw the animals decomposing in a shed.
And a former employee is expected to say that Green ordered her to scoop up ashes from various animals at random, put them in urns and give them to the pet owners.
Pub Date: 5/07/97