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Dispute over assets settled; charges ended

Two west Pasco men have been cleared of criminal charges stemming from a 2-year-old dispute over the ownership of a Polish Legion of American Veterans building in Elfers.

Eugene John Gromek, 64, of New Port Richey, and Michael Palak, 72, of Holiday, each had faced one count of grand theft, according to court records.

But after the settlement of a civil dispute between the Polish Legion of American Veterans and United Property Owners Inc., which the men had created and served as officers, there was no need to pursue criminal charges, according to Assistant State Attorney Michael Halkitis.

"Everyone appeared to be happy," Halkitis said Friday.

Larry Hart, the New Port Richey lawyer who represented the two men, said Friday, "I'm real satisfied that this is a just result.

"I always said this was a case involving poor choices, not criminal conduct. It was a case of good intentions, but poor form. The state ought to be commended (for dropping charges)."

In March 1991 sheriff's deputies arrested the men and seized control of the veterans' hall, at 3235 Madison St., 20 minutes before the scheduled start of a bingo game. Gromek and Palak had been accused of transferring the legion's assets to the property owner's group, according to the sheriff's office.

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