Tony Packo III and Cathleen Dooley freact after being not guilty in Lucas County Common Pleas Court, Thursday.
The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
The grandson of the founder of Tony Packo’s restaurants and the company’s controller were found not guilty of criminal theft in Lucas County Common Pleas Court Thursday after a two-week trial and only about one hour of jury deliberations.
Tony Packo III, 39, and Cathleen Dooley, 47 were found not guilty of aggravated theft. They had been accused of stealing more than $170,000 from the iconic restaurant company over a four-year period.
The pair reacted with tears and hugs from family members and supporters. Mr. Packo, who had closed his eyes in anticipation of the verdict, showed visible signs of relief when he heard he was acquitted of the crime.
“It should have never gotten to this point,” Mr. Packo said following the verdict after publicly thanking all those who supported him as well as his team of attorneys and the jurors themselves. “However, justice was served and I and my family are very grateful.”
The jury of seven men and five women considered the testimony of 20 witnesses and more than 300 documents that had been presented over a period of seven days. Deliberations began at about 9:30 a.m. today and concluded after about an hour.
Not present was Robin Horvath, Mr. Packo’s cousin and a key witness in the case. Mr. Horvath, who has since lost his shares of the company, testified over a period of three days of what he believed were “anomalies” in the company’s financial records that resulted in his own “covert” investigation.
Mr. Packo’s attorney, Jerry Phillips, said he believed the brevity of the deliberations showed that jurors did not believe Mr. Horvath’s assertions that Mr. Packo was stealing from the company and that Ms. Dooley was helping him.
“I’m extremely pleased for the clients. This has been two years of just a terrible ordeal that’s finally over,” Mr. Phillips said. “I think it came down to the credibility of witnesses and the primary witness was Robin Horvath.”
Mr. Phillips noted that Mr. Horvath still has pending civil litigation involving recent court decisions that resulted in the sale of Tony Packo’s Inc. to a third-party buyer.
“Unfortunately, it’s not over,” he said.
The company was placed in receivership in August, 2010, shortly after Mr. Horvath filed his first civil lawsuit and in response to the company going into default on its bank loans. Tony Packo’s Inc. was sold in February to Bob Bennett, LLC, the owner of a local fast-food franchise.
Since the sale, Mr. Packo has continued to work for the company as vice president of restaurant and retail operations. Ms. Dooley was also hired on but said today that she has since left the company after helping through the transition.
“We are pleased to learn of the acquittal of Tony Packo III. Mr. Packo and his father will continue to assist us in the operations of our company,” Mr. Bennett said in a statement.
“We look forward to putting this difficult period in our company’s history behind us and appreciate the continued support of our loyal customers. The Packo family’s knowledge of the business will continue to play an important role in the future of Tony Packo’s and my enthusiasm for the company remains high.”
After sharing hugs with her family, friends, and former co-defendant, Ms. Dooley expressed relief and thanks.
“I’m just glad it’s over and the justice system has worked for us,” she said.
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