Ronald W. Pelton, a former employe with the National Security Agency who is charged with selling government secrets to the Soviet Union, has been sued by a Montgomery County landscaping company that claims he stole $45,000 from the firm.

In the suit filed last month in Montgomery County Circuit Court, Custom Environmental Service Inc. alleged that Pelton began doing business with the firm in 1984 after representing himself as a contractor for Gladhill Tractor Mart, a farm equipment dealership in Frederick, Md., and Capital Small Engines, a parts distributorship in Beltsville.

The landscaping firm, located in Olney, paid a total of $27,843 in checks made out to Gladhill Tractor Mart that were endorsed and cashed by Pelton, according to the suit. The suit said Pelton also cashed $2,453 in checks made out to Capital Small Engines. Pelton was paid $14,950 directly -- in weekly checks of about $400 -- for work as a computer consultant, the suit said.

Maurice Gladhill, the president and owner of Gladhill Tractor Mart, said he has never met Pelton, and said a checking account was set up in Pelton's name without his knowledge or permission. "He just picked up our name," Gladhill said. "There was no relationship between him and my company whatsoever."

An official of the Richmond-based Capital Small Engines company said Pelton never worked there but said the company had sold equipment to the landscaping firm.

The payments to Pelton were made during 1984 and 1985, according to the suit, which does not specify what Pelton delivered or whether he performed any consulting services for the landscaping firm. The firm is seeking reimbursement of $45,000 and $100,000 in punitive damages from Pelton.

More than 160 canceled checks signed by "Ron Pelton" and drawn on a landscaping firm account with Suburban Bank are included in the court documents. The checks, which ranged in amount from $400 to $1,800, were cashed at a bank branch in Hyattsville within two days of being issued.

Lois Valois, an official at the landscaping firm who authorized most of the checks, refused to comment questions. Pelton could not be reached for comment.

Pelton, 44, had worked as a communications specialist with top secret clearance with the NSA for 14 years before he left the job in 1979. He was arrested Nov. 25 after allegedly admitting to FBI agents that he had received about $35,000 in exchange for sensitive information about U.S. intelligence activities against the Soviets.

Pelton is scheduled to stand trial on espionage charges on May 12 in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.