Investigator: Special Olympics swindled?

5:54 PM, Sep 11, 2012   |    comments
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MIDDLEBURG HEIGHTS - The county prosecutor is investigating whether someone stole more than $50,000 from a Special Olympics program for personal use, including a cruise, Channel 3 News has learned.

The MBB Special Olympics accepts donations to help train developmentally disabled athletes from Middleburg Heights, Berea and Brook Park. The money pays for things like equipment, uniforms, gym space and travel to competition, said Jeff Vermillion of Special Olympics Ohio, which oversees local chapter.

Rick Schulz, who now oversees the MBB Special Olympics, said he reported the theft to Middleburg Heights police after going over the books and discovering discrepancies.

Channel 3 News has learned that some donations were spent on a cruise, expensive dinners, tires for a personal vehicle, and salon treatments.

The case was later transferred to the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office, which continues to investigate, a spokeswoman confirmed. She declined to comment on any aspect of the case.

"Whoever did it needs to be dealt with appropriately and made an example of," said Dennis Wondrak, a personal trainer who coaches weightlifters for MBB Special Olympics. "For a lot of (the athletes), it's their life. I mean it's what they do. That's what helps define them as a person."

"So if you were going to take away the Special Olympics from these kids, they wouldn't have anything to do and that's not right," Wondrak said.

Marty Allen, program director for Special Olympics Ohio, says he is not aware of a criminal investigation into missing funds at the MBB Special Olympics. Allen said state chapter had an outside accounting firm audit the program's books after learning of possible missing funds but found nothing unusual.

Allen did concede there's "certainly an element of possibility" that auditors might not have been given all receipts of donations or purchases connected with spending of MBB Special Olympics money.


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