When patrons walked through the turnstiles at Laurel Raceway Friday night, their admissions, parking and program fees went to a party of Howard County sheriff's deputies, instead of the track's embattled owners.
Six deputies, carrying a court order, arrived at the harness racing track just before 7 p.m., Sheriff John Votta said yesterday. When they left five hours later, they had about $13,000, Votta said, which they carried away in the trunk of a car and deposited in a bank in Ellicott City, Md.
The money will be used to pay off part of a $242,000 court judgment against the track and its owners, Greta and Joseph Shamy and their partners, in a suit brought two years ago by Citizens Bank and Trust Co. of Maryland.
The bank said the owners owed almost $2.5 million for a loan to purchase the five-eighths of a mile track in 1975. It was repaid last October, just before a trial was scheduled to begin.
At a hearing, Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Judge Raymond Thieme Jr., awarded the bank an additional $242,000 for attorney fees.
Last Monday the track lost an appeal in the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, and the bank's attorneys took $48,000 in cash that had been posted as part of an appeal bond. They went to the sheriff to begin collecting the remainder.
Last night Joseph Shamy, the track's administrator, said calling on the sheriff was "another chapter in the continuing harrassment by the bank."
He said his lawyer would file a new appeal Monday with the state's highest court, the Maryland Court of Appeals.
"If we lose, we'll pay. If we win, we don't pay," Shamy said. "If I can pay $2.4 million, I can pay $200,000. What's the big deal?"
Ronald H. Jarashow, a lawyer for the bank who accompanied the deputies to the track Friday night, said track officials were "very cooperative."
"The night went well," he said. "We didn't want to interfere with the running of the track. We made that very clear. We hope people will continue to go there."
Attendance Friday was 5,401, a bit lower than normal because of the wet weather. The handle of $545,513 was not touched by the sheriff, Jarashow said, and was divided as usual between bettors, the track and the state.
Jarashow said he didn't know whether the bank will try to get another court order for the sheriff to seize money at the track again.
"We'll be talking about that," he said. "But what action will be taken we don't know."