Forfeiture auction to help with restitution
The two-session sale is the largest single-case forfeiture auction the career prosecutor has seen.
By PETER H. MILLIKEN
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- An assistant Mahoning County prosecutor said he expects an auction Saturday of big-ticket items will help make restitution to a dialysis clinic, whose former bookkeeper is accused of embezzling almost 1.7 million.
"This is the only way you can actually look the victims in the eye and say that you did the best you could," said Kenneth Cardinal, assistant Mahoning County prosecutor.
The former bookkeeper, Deborah L. Toda, 49, of Howland, was charged with aggravated grand theft in the disappearance of the money from the North Central Pennsylvania Dialysis Clinic and forgery of 100,000 or more in checks drawn on the clinic's account. Toda worked in the clinic's Boardman administrative office. She and her husband, Paul G. Pollis, 40, were charged with money laundering and engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity.
Toda is scheduled to plead guilty at 9 a.m. Jan. 30 before Judge Maureen A. Sweeney of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court. Pollis' case is pending. Vehicles, jewelry and other valuables were seized from the couple's residence under a search warrant last June.
The forfeiture auction, ordered by county Prosecutor Paul J. Gains, begins at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Basinger Auction Service, 100 Eastgate Drive, North Lima, with a preview from 5 to 7 p.m. today. Cardinal predicted Saturday's session will likely exceed 100,000 in sales.
Among the items that will be for sale are a 78,000 diamond ring, a 2006 Jeep Wrangler Golden Eagle, a 2005 Ford Mustang, a 1986 Jaguar, a 2004 Honda motorcycle with only 25 miles, a pontoon boat, Arctic Cat ATVs and Rolex watches.
Where proceeds will go
A Basinger auction session last Saturday in the same court case netted about 63,000 toward the investigation and prosecution costs, Cardinal said. That sale included bathroom fixtures, cookware, fine china and glass, figurines, tools, artwork and exercise equipment.
That sale, coupled with 4,500 from sale of forfeited equipment from a Howland pizzeria and 8,395 from the sale of Toda's interest in a Warren wig manufacturer, should cover investigation and prosecution costs, which are estimated at about 75,000, Cardinal said. Once those costs are covered, restitution to the victim can begin, he said, noting that a forensic accountant had to be retained for the probe.
Together, the two auction sessions comprise the largest forfeiture auction he's seen from a single case in more than 30 years with the prosecutor's office, Cardinal said.
Toda and Pollis agreed in writing that the prosecutor's office could conduct the auction before Toda's plea hearing, Cardinal said. The prosecutor's office wanted an expedited auction to avoid long-term storage costs for the forfeited items, he added.
What's behind this
Cardinal acknowledged that 100,000 in restitution would be a small amount compared with the total authorities say was embezzled. However, he said of Toda and Pollis: "That drop in the bucket prevents them from being beneficiaries of those ill-gotten gains."
"If we didn't seize them and sell them, then either Toda or Pollis could conduct their own private auctions," to disperse the assets and retain the sale proceeds, Cardinal said. Bond was set at 1.5 million for Toda and 450,000 for Pollis. Toda remains in Mahoning County jail; Pollis is free on bond, Cardinal said.
The kidney dialysis group and its management company have filed a separate civil lawsuit against Toda, Pollis and the employment agency that placed Toda on the job.