Investigators Say Husband Killed in Fear : Crimes: His wife’s knowledge of Melvin Green’s financial secrets led him to have her slain, prosecutors claim.


Melvin Green had a successful tax consulting business in North Hollywood and a personal financial value approaching $2 million. But he also had a wife who was divorcing him and who knew that there were “skeletons in his closet,” prosecutors say.

They say it was fear that Anita Green might open that closet and expose him to financial ruin that motivated him, in part, to carefully plan her execution.

Though investigators say there is no indication that Anita Green had ever threatened to use any knowledge of her husband’s secrets to harm him, she was ambushed and shot to death Oct. 25 behind his Oxnard Street office. Green, 55, has been charged with her murder and has pleaded not guilty. The man who shot his 42-year-old wife has not been arrested.


In a case that has drawn wide attention because the victim was active in the Jewish community in Encino, prosecutors expect to reveal much of their evidence against Green in a preliminary hearing scheduled this week in San Fernando Municipal Court.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Kent Crossler Cahill said recently that investigators have found no shortage of motives for the killing--ranging from traditional marital problems to Green’s desire to avoid professional embarrassment and financial loss.

Cahill said it is a case that primarily comes down to money and fear.

“The fear of the potential of exposure can be a powerful motive,” he said. “He knows he has skeletons in his closet and he knows she knows. He was convinced that exposure could ruin him financially, professionally and socially.”

The couple had been married nine years when they separated in February, 1990. Anita Green, who had an adult son from a prior marriage, moved out of the home that she had shared with her husband on Moorpark Street in Encino and into an apartment. She filed for divorce five months later, citing irreconcilable differences.

An office manager at her husband’s business, Anita Green continued to work for the company, but out of her apartment--coming to the office only to pick up work to take home and her paycheck. Investigators have said that the divorce was contentious and that Anita Green was planning to challenge a prenuptial agreement as having been signed under duress.

Added to the divorce dispute, Anita Green knew how her husband operated, Cahill said. She knew that his company had been investigated by the Internal Revenue Service and that he was suspected of some questionable practices, the prosecutor said. He would not reveal what those practices were.

The IRS criminal investigation unit in Los Angeles has never probed Green’s business, a law enforcement source said. But the agency’s inspection division, a unit that primarily investigates allegations concerning IRS employee integrity, has conducted an investigation involving Green’s company, the source said. When that investigation took place and what it entailed was unavailable.

Green’s attorney, Arthur B. Alexander, strongly disputed the claim that his client was personally investigated by the IRS. He said Green has participated in IRS inquiries of some of his clients, but has never personally been the focus of an investigation.

Cahill said investigators have found that a diploma on the wall of Melvin Green’s office was phony and now believe that it was one of the secrets that Anita Green knew about her husband that may have cost her her life.

The diploma credits Melvin Green with a master’s degree in taxation from Jackson State University that was obtained through correspondence classes administered in Nevada. Investigators determined that the Mississippi school has no correspondence program in Nevada and does not offer a master’s degree in taxation through any means of study.

But the diploma, if it had been revealed as phony by Green’s wife, would have caused him no trouble with the IRS because the agency does not have any educational requirements for tax preparers, according to C. Philip Xanthos, chief of the IRS criminal investigation unit in Los Angeles.

“To prepare other people’s tax returns, you really don’t need anything other than a table and chair,” Xanthos said. “There are absolutely no qualifications.”

However, Cahill said he is unconcerned by the IRS response. He said exposure of the phony diploma could have cost Melvin Green clients as well as social embarrassment.

“It’s still fraudulent,” Cahill said. “It could have an impact. You drop a pebble like that in the water and the ripples go in all directions.”

Cahill was also quick to stress that the business practices of Melvin Green were only one part of what he called a “three-part” motive for the slaying.

The prosecutor said Green’s fear that he would lose a large financial settlement to his wife in the divorce also prompted her killing. A third motive, he said, was a “more traditional marital difficulty” but he would not elaborate.

Alexander, Green’s attorney, disputed those allegations. He said the prenuptial agreement that the couple had signed nullified his client’s risk of financial loss in the divorce.

Alexander also said evidence in the case will show that Anita Green became involved in a new relationship after the Greens’ separation, but it was something that Melvin Green was unconcerned with. Though the Greens’ marriage had not yet been legally dissolved, the relationship was long over, he said.

Anita Green was shot to death shortly after she pulled her red Corvette into the parking lot behind her husband’s office. According to witnesses, she was followed by a motorcyclist who wore a visored helmet. He shot her once and sped away.

She had arrived at the office for an appointment with her husband to pick up a paycheck he had been withholding, Cahill said. Calling the killing a preconceived ambush, he said Melvin Green was the one who had set the time for her to pick up the check.

Cahill and the police decline to talk about their investigation of who the gunman was. Cahill said the investigation has amassed enough evidence--from more than 20 sources--to convict Green even if the murder weapon is not found and the actual shooter not arrested. “I don’t need the triggerman,” the prosecutor said.

Alexander called the prosecution’s case a web of circumstantial evidence that will not convict his client, who remains in jail without bail.

“At best, it’s a web,” the defense attorney said. “Some people have come forth with statements made by Mel Green over the years which, when taken out of context, appear to be incriminating. That’s the best they have. It’s thin.”

Alexander characterized the investigation of Melvin Green as harassment, right down to the decision to arrest him five days before the April 15 tax deadline when he was busy preparing the returns of several clients.

For those who knew the couple, the slaying of Anita Green--followed five months later by her husband’s arrest for murder--was a one-two punch.

“It’s unbelievable,” said the victim’s mother, Riva Rice. “I have such mixed feelings about what has happened. I hate to say it, but you can’t trust anybody.”

The slaying and arrest have had a profound effect on the membership of Shir Chadash--the New Reform Congregation in Encino. Melvin and Anita Green were founding members of the 8-year-old congregation. Anita Green had been lay president since 1987 and, in the months before her death, she had campaigned to build a permanent synagogue in Woodland Hills for the congregation. In early October, two weeks before her death, she took part in a groundbreaking ceremony.

“We are all aggrieved by what has happened,” said Sylvia Holste-Lilie, spokeswoman for the 500-family congregation. “Anita was so personally connected with so many members, their children, too. I think there is an ongoing grief process. People speak of her daily and miss her daily.

“The whole situation is very sad.”

In the wake of Green’s death, the congregation is continuing its effort to build the synagogue. One part of that project will be a temple chapel, Holste-Lilie said. Architectural drawings have already been completed and the membership has already chosen a name. It will be called the Anita M. Green Memorial Chapel.