Organizers ask 19 Investigates for help getting missing money after benefit event for stroke victim

Published: Mar. 2, 2022 at 7:30 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Months after a fundraiser for a local stroke victim, his family says it hasn’t received a penny.

Ross Dorrell was just 59-years-old last May when he suffered a massive stroke.

His daughter, Sydney Sines, says Dorrell is not able to speak yet, and he is still living in a rehab facility.

“He’s definitely still Ross, just a little bit different,” she said.

Knowing he’d have a lot of medical expenses, his band wanted to put together a benefit event.

That’s when they say the managers of Frankie’s Tavern in Painesville reached out over messenger, offering to host the event.

“I was so grateful, my dad does come from a lot so knowing we would have financial support while we’re in this time to wrap up some things was a relief,” Sines said.

But that relief slowly turned into more heartache and a 222-page police report.

Denise Cogar headed up the event that included a 50-50 raffle, an auction, t-shirt sales, and ticket sales to get in.

“We had a very organized system where the person would count the money, I would count it with them, and then we would put it in a Ziplock bag,” Cogar said. “The manager said that he would put it upstairs in a safe.”

But to this day, it’s unclear where all the money is.

“We are estimating approximately $20,000,” Cogar said.

And she says she nor Durrell’s family have seen a dime of that.

We are not naming the bar managers, because they have not been charged with a crime.

That’s why Cogar is upset, though.

She says the managers she worked with have constantly made excuses and changed the amount earned that night.

Regardless of the back and forth about what was raised, Cogar again said the family hasn’t seen any of it.

Sines said, “If we could have handled this privately, we would have. But, it’s been almost a year now and we haven’t gotten a solution. So, we think it’s time for the people to know that we did not benefit from it.

In Ohio, theft over $1,000 is a felony.

The report that the Lake County Sheriff’s Department took last fall includes pages upon pages of text messages with the managers.

One says, “I’ll do a buffet, no charge.”

There are also dozens of receipts and statements from Ross’s family members still waiting on money.

The deputy handling the case emailed Cogar and said he was gathering all this information and would send it to the city prosecutor “so he can determine if charges can be brought up”

On his review, the prosecutor wrote-- “no charges, civil matter.”

“There’s no criminal charges?” Cogar said. “It’s maybe not so black and white but to me it is. I mean where is the money?”

The fact that no one has an answer to that is the problem in bringing charges according to city prosecutor Ron Graham.

He says Cash is extremely hard to trace. He tells us all of the evidence on file isn’t enough evidence to prove the managers or anyone else pocketed the proceeds.

19 Investigates discovered that the bar is closed right now.

The sign says out front says ‘check FB,’ meaning Facebook. We did that and it says unfortunately it’s due to staffing shortages.

19 Investigates got a hold of Frank Salers-- the man who opened the bar years ago with his name on it.

The police report shows he contacted deputies in November when he learned the family never received money from the fundraiser held at the bar.

He says he doesn’t know where that money is either.

Salers told police his family’s been “away from day to day operation for over two years.”

The two managers the family had running the place have “complete control of receipts and bills and deposits.”

He says he tried to question the managers about the missing funds from the night of the event, and their answers didn’t make sense to him either.

“It’s beyond your imagination to think that somebody wouldn’t give the family the money that day or the next day,” he said.

“I would have never expected this would be the own result,” Cogar said. “I don’t feel like he’s responsible, the business owner, but whoever he had working there is.”

19 Investigates called both managers for their side of this story.

They referred us to their attorney, who says they didn’t steal any money.

The attorney says the fundraiser didn’t bring in $20,000. And, he said the managers had to subtract food and labor from the lesser amount that was raised.

The mangers say they’ve tried to turn over some money, but the family hasn’t assigned a point person to accept it.

The family says that’s just not true.

“We don’t know if we’ll see a penny out of this, but we decided that even if we don’t get a penny out of this, the public deserves to know,” Cogar said.

She wants them to know that the financial burden hasn’t been lifted off of Dorrell’s family, and whoever is to blame hasn’t been held accountable.

“They stole from a sick person and his family and friends and an entire community that was there to support him that day,” she said.

We reached out to County Prosecutors to see if they would review the case. A spokesperson told us no-not unless the city prosecutor sent it to them, which he has not.

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