Gateway to a Cure once brought the now-deceased "Superman" star Christopher Reeve to St. Louis to help raise money.

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Charity founder diverted funds for personal use

Associated Press Thu, Aug. 10, 2006

ST. LOUIS - The founder of a charity that sold raffle tickets for luxury homes and cars to raise funds for spinal cord research spent thousands of dollars of its money on personal expenses, Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon said in a new court filing.

Gateway to a Cure, founded 10 years ago in St. Louis County, gained respect over the years and once brought the now-deceased "Superman" star Christopher Reeve to St. Louis to help raise money. But its reputation declined after it was unable to award homes and pricey cars advertised in its raffles.

In papers filed Tuesday in St. Louis County Circuit Court, Nixon says Gateway founder and president Lou Sengheiser "misappropriated the funds raised by Gateway to a Cure for personal use," the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported in Thursday's editions.

The document lists 17 mortgage checks for Sengheiser's home in Imperial written on the charity's bank account; use of a money from a Gateway account to pay personal credit card debts, including $750 in expenses for a Colorado ski trip; and use of Gateway checks for debts at retail stores and restaurants in the St. Louis area.

Nixon's office would not release the total amount of the listed expenditures, and a call to Sengheiser was not returned Wednesday, the newspaper said. But the former hockey referee, who founded the charity after his son was paralyzed in a fall at home, has maintained he has done nothing wrong.

The court documents seek to add Sengheiser and Mary M. Bolling, who served as executive director of the charity's Kansas City chapter, to a lawsuit filed by the state in May against Gateway to a Cure.

In addition, the documents ask the court to find that Sengheiser and Bolling violated state law in their operation of the raffles, order them to pay "full restitution" to anyone who bought a ticket for the raffles and order that they pay the state an undetermined amount in civil penalties.

Calls to Bolling on Wednesday seeking comment were not returned, the newspaper said.

Gateway to a Cure stopped selling raffle tickets in May pending the outcome of the state's lawsuit.

Several questionable raffles were cited in the document, including a Valentine's Day raffle for a $98,500 Maserati Spyder.

Investigators have been unable to find evidence that the announced winner of the luxury car ever existed, according to the document, which described the Valentine's Day raffle as "unfair and/or unconscionable" if it turns out to be fraudulent.

The top prize in the Valentine's Day drawing was a $1.3 million luxury home built by Bolling's family company in suburban Kansas City, with a $200,000 Bentley Arnage automobile that would be parked outside.

But the grand prize winner - who has been identified publicly only by her maiden name as S. Clark of Texico, Ill. - never received the house, settling instead for an undisclosed cash prize. Nixon's office has said investigators have spoken to the Illinois woman.

Sengheiser has acknowledged that the charity did not sell enough tickets for the raffle to be able to award the house. The charity also never awarded a $200,000 Bentley Arnage automobile that was part of the grand prize package.

Sengheiser also is accused in the court filing of using the charity's tax-exempt status to buy vehicles for undisclosed private individuals to help them avoid paying taxes.

Note: We are Online Car Donation part of the With Causes charitable network and are not associated or affiliated with Gateway to a Cure in any way.


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