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Published: Sunday, 1/8/2006

Man linked to riot denies making illegal purchases

A North Toledo man, whose dispute with a black neighbor and at least one gang attracted the attention of neo-Nazis and led to a riot Oct. 15, yesterday said he expects to be exonerated of charges that he used Toledo Public Schools' tax-exempt status to make personal purchases.

Thomas Szych, 35, of 532 Bronson Ave., who was charged with eight felony counts of forgery, one misdemeanor count of theft, and one misdemeanor count of falsification and is free on his own recognizance, told reporters yesterday at his home that the charges against him are "false and unfounded."

Police on Thursday accused Mr. Szych of avoiding paying $23 in sales tax on some personal items he bought recently by using a tax-exempt number that belongs to Leverette Junior High School. He also is accused of using PTO money to pay for the items, police said.

Mr. Szych, who is president of the Leverette Parent Teacher Organization, claimed yesterday that the tax-exempt number is registered to the PTO, not the school.

He declined to address specifics about the purchases, saying that authorities have provided him with dates but not an itemization of what he is accused of purchasing.

Mr. Szych also said he believes the charges stem from various clashes he has had with Leverette school officials, not the Oct. 15 riot in which he said he has been unfairly associated.

"This has nothing to do with the riot. I have nothing to do with the riot," Mr. Szych said. He said he never asked the neo-Nazis to get in the middle of the dispute with his neighbor, which has been cited as the impetus for a planned neo-Nazi march that went awry.

A tavern was set on fire, several people were hurt, several vehicles were smashed, and more than 120 arrests were made during a melee that has been described as Toledo's biggest riot since the 1960s.

His father, John Szych, said he questions whether authorities had the right to confiscate a handgun of his that was inside his son's house when police served a search warrant at his son's house last week.

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