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Published: Friday, 9/28/2012 - Updated: 1 year ago

Theft trial for 2 ex-Packo employees to open today

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Cathleen Dooley confers with attorneys Mark Jacobs, left, and Rick Kerger, before jury selection gets under way Thursday in Lucas County Common Pleas Court. Cathleen Dooley confers with attorneys Mark Jacobs, left, and Rick Kerger, before jury selection gets under way Thursday in Lucas County Common Pleas Court.
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The criminal trial of a pair charged with stealing from the famed Tony Packo’s Inc. restaurant company will begin today in Lucas County Common Pleas Court with the testimony of the state’s first witnesses.

Tony Packo III and Cathleen Dooley are each charged with three counts of aggravated theft for allegedly stealing about $170,000 from the company over a four-year period. Mr. Packo, 39, the grandson of the restaurant’s founder, and Ms. Dooley, 47, the company’s controller, were indicted Dec. 14 by a county grand jury after a lengthy inquiry by an investigator in the prosecutor’s office.

Tony Packo III, who is the restaurant founder's grandson. Tony Packo III, who is the restaurant founder's grandson.
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A jury of seven men and five women, including an additional four alternates, was selected and sworn in Thursday from a pool consisting of 113 people. The trial is expected to last two weeks.

The prospective jurors were questioned throughout the day by attorneys for defendants and the state. Among the questions asked included whether they had been exposed to extensive pretrial publicity and whether they were familiar with the witnesses, the defendants, or each other.

Jurors also were asked whether they had ever eaten at the restaurant, to which all but just a few answered that they had.

Authorities said the accusations against the pair were brought to the prosecutor’s office by the attorney of former co-owner Robin Horvath, who is a cousin of Mr. Packo and at the time owned half the business. Mr. Horvath is expected to testify.

Also expected to testify is Mr. Packo’s father, Tony Packo, Jr., who was listed by both assistant prosecutors and the defense as a potential witness.

If convicted, Mr. Packo and Ms. Dooley face up to three years in prison.

The Packo family made headlines within the past year when civil litigation was filed in common pleas court that ultimately resulted in the company being sold.

In February, businessman Bob Bennett of TP Foods LLC bought the company after it had been placed into receivership for more than a year. That deal, ordered by Judge Gene Zmuda, is being challenged by Mr. Horvath, who filed a memorandum with Ohio’s 6th District Court of Appeals asking the court to undo the sale.

In the memorandum, filed in August, Mr. Horvath argued that an appeal he filed Oct. 20, which contested several of Judge Zmuda’s rulings, should have suspended the lower court process until his October appeal could be settled. If indeed the appellate court had jurisdiction, Mr. Horvath contended, decisions by Judge Zmuda that occurred after the October appeal was filed should be rendered invalid — including the sale of Packo’s to TP Foods.

No decision has been reached on that issue.

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



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