November 14, 2001 at 6:34 PM EST - Updated July 3 at 1:40 AM
CANTON, Ohio (AP) - Hoover Co. workers and a union raised thousands of dollars for a co-worker who is accused of falsely telling them that he had to raise the child of his sister who was killed Sept. 11 at the World Trade Center.
Ronald Davis, 49, of Canton, pleaded innocent Wednesday in Canton Municipal Court to a charge of theft by deception. Davis, who turned himself in to police Tuesday, faces up to a year in jail if convicted.
Police and Davis' attorney, Jeffrey Haupt, said Davis admitted making up the story.
"Ron's troubled, and he's been to a psychiatrist," Haupt said Tuesday night. "He knows he's done wrong, and he's willing to take whatever punishment they give him. So let the judiciary deal with it. I will try to get him to give the money back and get him continued mental health treatment."
Employees at the Hoover plant in North Canton gave money, toys and clothing to Davis for the 7-year-old niece that they had never seen, police said. Members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1985 held fund-raisers and gave him about $1,100.
Nearly $6,000 more was raised, but it was withheld after a suspicious co-worker asked police to check on Davis. When a detective called New York City, the medical examiner's office there did not find Davis' sister among the dead or missing, police said.
Other holes appeared in his story. The attorney and law firm he mentioned were fictitious, and the niece he described as a Canton student was not registered with the school district.
The photograph Davis claimed was of the 7-year-old was a picture of another relative who is 12.
Police say Davis told them his sister died a few years ago.
"It's saddening. It's a betrayal of trust," said union President Jim Repace. "The people here are disappointed. But if there was another situation, and one of our co-workers was in need, I think people would open their hearts and be as generous and caring as they have been."
(Copyright 2001 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)