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Ventura County

Landowner Pays Part of Big Tree Fine

Facing jail, the Ojai Valley man convicted of bulldozing 300 oaks gives $3,000 and vows to come up with $30,000 more by mid-April.

March 20, 2004|Holly J. Wolcott | Times Staff Writer

He owes half a million dollars in restitution, and has for more than seven months, but a small good faith payment Friday kept jail at bay for an Ojai Valley landowner convicted of plowing down 300 protected oak trees on his property.

Los Angeles real estate broker William Kaddis, 58, was found guilty in May 2003 of illegally destroying the trees on his 44-acre ranch. Last July, he was sentenced to 210 days in jail and ordered to pay a $500,000 fine.

During at least three hearings on the case since last summer, Ventura County Superior Court Judge Kevin J. McGee had said he would allow Kaddis to remain free, pending his appeal, as long as he immediately started making payments on the fine.

Last month, when Kaddis failed to pay, McGee revoked the probation and ordered him to come up with $30,000 by Friday.

Instead, Kaddis wrote a check to the county for $3,000. His attorney convinced McGee that Kaddis would pay $30,000 more by April 19, when he is scheduled to return to court. A decision on the appeal was also expected next month.

The next installment of money, said Charles U. Odiase, Kaddis' attorney, would come from profits his client hopes to receive from the sale of two properties.

"Business is looking up for him," Odiase said outside court. "We're trying to find some type of resolution, because this case has been going on too long."

Odiase said he believed his client's appeal would be successful. He said a man Kaddis hired to bulldoze the trees in October 2001 had made conflicting statements about the number of trees removed.

Kaddis was ordered last year to make an initial payment of $3,000 to the Ventura County Public Works Department, followed by monthly payments of $9,500 to the court.

At the time, Kaddis said he was able to pay but later said he was broke.

The restitution money will go to the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy.

Odiase said his client, whose real estate portfolio exceeds $1 million, wants to avoid selling his Ojai Valley property, which has been assessed at $672,000. Kaddis bought the land for retirement, Odiase said.

Kaddis also has filed a civil lawsuit against the county, which is pending.

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