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Veterans group leader quits after charge

NEW PORT RICHEY — The former commander of a local Disabled American Veterans chapter is accused of taking a $240 bingo check and cashing it for himself, authorities say.

Paul Clamp, 61, faces a charge of misdemeanor petit theft. The investigation is considered open, New Port Richey Assistant police Chief Darryl Garman said, and investigators are seeking more information.

The group's current directors say they have it.

Treasurer Jon Petersen said Clamp, who was commander for six years, once used a DAV credit card to buy a movie at Wal-Mart. When confronted, he said he would reimburse the group. The incident prompted Petersen to do some digging, which led him to conclude that Clamp used the credit card for personal purchases totaling more than $2,000.

Tony Russo, a past trustee, said he ran the group's weekly bingo game one Saturday when Clamp was away. He said he had roughly the same number of patrons as Clamp had the week before — but took in about $700 more in proceeds.

According to the police report, "Petersen and Russo believe Clamp had been skimming money off the bingo bank ... but cannot prove this due to Clamp being the only one involved in the bingo transactions.''

The petit theft charge stems from another bingo night.

According to Petersen and a New Port Richey police report, early last April, Clamp asked Petersen for the $240 check to replenish the bingo bank, which normally has about $1,100. Petersen wrote the check and Russo checked the bank, but the check was never deposited.

This time when confronted, Clamp quit.

"He didn't say anything," Petersen said. "He just turned in his keys and his credit cards."

Clamp, of 12708 Litewood Drive in Hudson, could not be reached Wednesday. State records show he was arrested in 1996 on an aggravated assault charge. He was found guilty in a nonjury trial and sentenced to probation and anger management counseling.

Alan Bedor, who replaced Clamp as commander, said the money he is accused of taking came at the expense of veterans. The chapter uses its fundraising proceeds to provide transportation to take veterans to doctors' appointments at the VA hospital in Tampa. The group also provides food vouchers for those who have been ill or had surgery but are not yet getting convalescent benefits. The members also volunteer helping veterans file paperwork for claims, Bedor said.

Molly Moorhead can be reached at moorhead@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6245.

Veterans group leader quits after charge 03/12/08 [Last modified: Friday, March 14, 2008 4:49pm]
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