OGDEN — Angie Petersen had driven by the cemetery headstones shop on 12th Street many times.
“I had seen this business the whole time growing up, and didn’t realize maybe it was not good,” she said. “But I had a sense of comfort. I always saw people there. During my grief I didn’t even think that I was walking into a fraudulent situation.”
Looking back now, especially because she is a criminal forensics investigator, Petersen wishes she had been more skeptical.
The business, Etched in Stone Design, is closed and the owner, Wallis Burnside, is being pursued by other burned customers and the Utah Consumer Protection Division. The agency placed Burnside and the business on its “buyer beware” list.
Petersen paid $3,400 up front in 2017 for a headstone for her mother’s grave. But after months of delays, she researched the business and found numerous consumer complaints.
She called Burnside in April 2018 and demanded a meeting to get a refund, but he responded, “Have you heard of the Oath Keepers and Sheriff Mack? I support those groups.”
The Oath Keepers and former Arizona Sheriff Richard Mack’s constitutional sheriffs’ organization focus on gun rights advocacy and resentment of the federal government.
Finally, Burnside directed her to a storage lot. One of the four monument pieces she had ordered was missing; two were damaged and no engraving had been done, she said.
Petersen, 41, who grew up in Huntsville and now lives in Farmington, filed a complaint with the division and is considering filing a civil suit against Burnside, but that may be fruitless.
Utah court records show several administrative fines and civil judgments have been granted against him, but at least some apparently have not been paid.
Burnside, 54, was jailed briefly in 2018 after a judge issued an arrest warrant because he failed to appear in court for one of the cases.
In response to a public records request, the division said Tuesday it had no information about whether Burnside has resumed business somewhere else.
Court records show Burnside’s state business registrations for two entities at the defunct 138 W. 12th St. location, Etched in Stone Design and Forethought Creations, are expired.
The building is shuttered and marked for sale.
CITATIONS AND FINES
In December 2016, the Consumer Protection Division issued an administrative citation against Burnside and the businesses, seeking $15,000 in fines and ordering him to cease unlawful practices.
The division said Burnside engaged in a pattern of knowingly missing promised delivery dates, refusing to grant refunds, failing to fix grammar and spelling errors on grave markers and deviating from designs ordered by customers.
“He essentially holds hostage consumers who are oftentimes in the process of grieving the loss of a loved one,” the state document said.
Investigators said Burnside offered “countless excuses,” often citing medical or labor problems.
At a Nov. 27, 2017, hearing on the citation, Burnside said he was suffering from “adrenal fatigue and acute stress following a two-year illness,” according to the record.
The division eventually imposed a $6,000 fine, which Burnside has not paid.
Investigators detailed four 2016 cases in which it said Burnside violated state consumer laws:
• An Eden woman paid $2,800 for a monument bench to honor her mother. The monument had spelling mistakes and was never delivered.
• Customers from Ogden and Lava Hot Springs, Idaho, paid $750 and $250, respectively, for markers that were never delivered.
• A Roy woman paid $1,700 for a gravestone that was not delivered. Burnside eventually agreed to pay a $700 refund but she received only $150.
In 2006 and 2013, the division had cited Burnside for similar alleged violations of the Utah Consumer Practices Act. He never paid the $7,500 in fines from those cases, according to the division.
A Utah County woman in 2014 sued him in 4th District Court in Provo for $7,500. She said she ordered a $9,500 memorial for her son and Burnside required $7,500 be paid up front.
She never got the memorial.
Riverdale attorney John M. Webster represented Burnside in that case. In a settlement, Burnside agreed to pay the woman $7,500.
Contacted Wednesday, Webster said he could not comment beyond what was in the court record.
U.S. Bankruptcy Court records show Burnside filed for bankruptcy in 2016. The trustee’s final report shows five scheduled creditors, most of that debt owed to the Internal Revenue Service ($77,000).
Burnside did not immediately return voicemail and text messages left at the number listed in his bankruptcy file.
CIVIL, NOT CRIMINAL
State attorneys representing white-collar crime and civil enforcement investigators at least twice have filed civil suits against Burnside seeking compensation for the administrative fines lodged against him that have gone unpaid.
One such action was dismissed in 2018 after process servers could not find Burnside. The second was filed March 27 in 2nd District Court in Ogden. That case remains pending.
Petersen said civil enforcement is not enough. Such unsavory business transactions are not classified as criminal behavior, “at least not on the law books,” she said.
“Something like this needs to be charged,” she said. “I’d rather see him do time, for he’s still just out and about doing what he wants.”