Packo case goes to jury after 7 days of testimony

10/11/2012
BY ERICA BLAKE BLADE STAFF WRITER
Tony Packo III
Tony Packo III
Cathleen Dooley.
Cathleen Dooley.

After hearing the testimony of 20 witnesses and considering more than 250 documents over a period of seven days, a Lucas County Common Pleas Court jury is to begin deliberations today in the criminal theft case of two people from the iconic Tony Packo’s restaurant company.

Tony Packo III, 39, the grandson of the company’s founder, and Cathleen Dooley, 47, the company’s controller, each face charges of aggravated theft after being accused of stealing more than $170,000 from the company over a four-year period. During closing arguments Wednesday, assistant prosecutors alleged that the amount stolen by Mr. Packo was about $210,000, and that Ms. Dooley helped him commit a majority of the thefts.

Attorneys for Mr. Packo and Ms. Dooley countered in closing arguments that the allegations were created by Mr. Packo’s cousin, Robin Horvath, who had tried to gain control of the company. Instead, they noted, Tony Packo’s Inc. was placed into receivership, bought by an outside party, and Mr. Horvath was not hired on while Mr. Packo and Ms. Dooley continue to work for the company.

Using checks and other documents, assistant Prosecutor John Weglian illustrated for jurors the areas of theft in which Mr. Packo has been charged. In addition to two personal expenses that the company later resolved should be paid back by Mr. Packo, the investigation revealed thefts as the result of unauthorized mileage, pocketing some of the money from reimbursements on a loan, and overcharging for merchandise for the company’s gift stores, Mr. Weglian said.

Although Ms. Dooley is not charged with taking any money, she is charged with helping Mr. Packo by “cooking the books,” Mr. Weglian said.

Attorneys for the defendants reviewed and countered each state claim. In particular, Mr. Packo’s attorney, Jerry Phillips, told jurors that Mr. Packo received mileage money because as the company’s director of restaurant operations, he traveled and so was entitled to expenses.

“The prosecutor said this case was about money. It is about money but it’s also about control of the corporation,” Mr. Phillips said. “Mr. Horvath wanted control of the corporation. He wanted the company for $100,000. He wanted [the defendants] out and he wanted [his uncle, Tony Packo, Jr] out.”

During the trial, Mr. Horvath testified for several hours over three days about his initial suspicions when looking at monthly financial statements and a “covert” investigation he conducted in response. He testified that he was unaware of the more than $100,000 Mr. Packo received over three years for mileage compensation and that he was not given any of the $63,000 in parking lot cash brought in when the downtown restaurant rented its parking lot during baseball games.

The defense questioned him on the personal expenses of his own, including dry cleaning, a gas card for his wife, and family parties at the restaurants that were paid for by Tony Packo’s Inc.

In closing arguments, Ms. Dooley’s attorney, Rick Kerger, called his client “collateral damage” in a case that involved jealousy between two parts of the family.

“She’s doing her job and that’s all she ever did. She did her job,” Mr. Kerger said.

After nearly five hours of closing arguments, the jury of seven men and five women was also instructed by Judge Frederick McDonald about the law and its definitions. Jurors will not only have to decide whether the pair is guilty of the alleged thefts but also, if found guilty, the potential amount they believe was stolen.

Mr. Packo and Ms. Dooley each are charged with a felony of the third degree, which is the theft of between $150,000 and $750,000 and is punishable by up to three years in prison. Jurors can also find that thefts occurred but in a lower amount: A felony of the fourth degree, which is punishable by up to 18 months in prison, is a theft of between $7,500 and $150,000. A fifth-degree felony is a $1,000 to $7,500 theft and is punishable by up to one year in prison.

Contact Erica Blake at: eblake@theblade.com or 419-213-2134.