(MANSFIELD, Ohio)— Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced today that his office filed a civil RICO action in Richland County Common Pleas Court, alleging a number of claims including money laundering, theft, and racketeering against the trustees of the former Mansfield All Sports Booster Club and conspiring bingo workers. The suit alleges that the defendants’ actions resulted in the theft of charitable assets from at least seven Richland County charities.
“Not only did the defendants skim money from charitable bingo games and cheat bingo patrons out of their winnings in violation of Ohio law, they also raided the bank accounts of the booster club and separate scholarship trust, both established for the benefit of the students of the Mansfield City Schools,” said Attorney General DeWine. “We believe that they turned these charities into their own personal ATM machines, and hope this action is able to recover at least some of the assets squandered by the defendants.”
The lawsuit also alleges a pattern of illegal activity and improper compensation involving defendant Kendall Clemons at the bingo games of at least six charities in Richland County dating back to 2004, including Amvets #31, American Legion #16, Amvets #26, Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Museum, Raemelton Therapeutic Equestrian Center, and Mansfield Tyger All Sports Booster Club. Among the claims are that Kendall Clemons would use a variety of schemes to skim money from the bingo games of these charities. For example, Kendall Clemons would use instant bingo games but not pay certain winners of prizes not mentioned on the ticket, and then report to the Attorney General’s Office that these prizes had been paid. An investigation by the Attorney General’s Office discovered more than 1,893 separate instances of records containing false statements.
The trustees emptied bank accounts belonging to the Booster Club and the Scholarship Trust to sustain the bingo operation that would then be used to illegally compensate themselves and their bingo workers. When the bingo game began to run out of funds, they raided the account belonging to the Scholarship Trust, resulting in its eventual termination. As a direct result of this activity, charitable contributions to the athletic programs of Mansfield Senior High School plummeted. The Mansfield Tyger All Sports Booster Club had contributed more than $102,000 on average annually for the benefit of Mansfield Senior High School athletic programs from 1993 to 2005, including approximately $220,000 to establish the separate Scholarship Trust. But in 2009, the Booster Club contributed a mere $566.
In addition, Booster Club trustees soon began to falsify documents to gain access to Scholarship Trust funds and used these funds to pay off the mortgage on a bingo hall owned by the Booster Club located on Trimble Road. The Booster Club retained ownership of the building and then sold it to a third party for a mortgage under which it currently receives nearly $10,000 quarterly. The trustees continued to pay off their legal fees and own bills with Scholarship Trust Assets. By 2011, the Scholarship Trust was terminated with no remaining assets.
“The defendants were set to receive another mortgage payment of nearly $10,000 by the end of this month. It was critical that we file this lawsuit immediately to ensure that this money was not misappropriated,” DeWine added.
After the Mansfield City School Board of Education began to question the actions of the Booster Club trustees, the Board of Education severed its ties with the Booster Club. The organization then changed its name to the Richland All Sports Booster Club, with the purpose of benefiting Richland County athletes. However, the Booster Club continued to operate for the benefit of the defendant trustees.
“With this lawsuit, I hope to send the strong message that if you steal from a charity in the state of Ohio, we will take aggressive action to get those assets back so that they benefit those that they were intended to help,” said Attorney General DeWine.
Lisa Hackley: 614-466-3840
Dan Tierney: 614-466-3840
Copy of Lawsuit/Complaint (PDF)