TAYLOR, Mich. (WXYZ) - What started out as a good deed to benefit the family of a murdered police officer has turned into an ugly situation. A local car dealer says he donated an expensive Corvette to the cause and wound up being taken for a ride by a police charity.
The charity insists it did nothing wrong and says every dime raised from the raffle went to the family of the murdered officer. The dealership says they poured thousands of dollars into the fundraiser only to be cut out of the picture at the last minute.
Funds were being raised for the family of gunned-down officer Matthew Edwards, killed in the line of duty last summer. We all felt the pain.
Police officers turned out en masse at his funeral and hundreds of regular folks lined the motorcade route. People opened their hearts and their wallets, donating money to the wife and two kids corporal Edwards left behind.
Some of that money came from a fundraiser at Taylor Chevrolet when the dealership raffled off an expensive Corvette ZR1.
“Well, it started out being a win, win, win,” says Taylor Chevrolet President Bill Perkins.
Perkins said the dealership would benefit by selling an expensive car, the raffle winner would get a fantastic car tax free, and the remainder of the money would go to help the family of Corporal Edwards.
But eventually, this “win, win, win” turned into an ugly mess and the dealership wound up in a heated dispute with the police charity brought in to conduct the auction.
Perkins says Taylor Police told him the dealership needed a non-profit organization to get a state raffle license and conduct the drawing. The police suggested a group called The Thin Blue Line of Michigan, an organization that helps families of officers hurt or killed in the line of duty.
Perkins says things started off fine. The Thin Blue Line got the raffle license and the dealership paid to have the tickets printed and ran TV ads at their expense to promote the Corvette drawing.
According to the dealership, they planned on selling 2,200 tickets at $100 each, raising $220,000. $117,000 would go to pay for the Corvette at dealer’s invoice cost. Around $47,000 would be used to pay sales and income taxes for the winner. The remainder, about $56,000 would go to the family of Corporal Edwards.
Laurie Reinacher, founder of The Thin Blue Line of Michigan, ran the drawing and the widow of Corporal Edwards pulled the winning ticket. Then, things went sideways.
After the drawing, the dealership claims that The Thin Blue Line threw them for a curve. They said the winner didn’t want the car. He was taking a cash payout. The dealership says that came as a complete surprise because, before the drawing, nobody had said anything about a cash payout.
“You assumed that this car was going to leave here at a price you had agreed on,” asked Action News Investigator Scott Lewis.
“Yes,” replied Taylor Chevrolet General Manager Mark Montante.
“So you think that you guys got taken,” asked Lewis.
“Absolutely,” said Montante.
There was no mention of a cash payout on the raffle ticket. The state's Charitable Gaming Division told Action News that if there was a cash option, state rules require that it be printed on the ticket. Laurie Reinacher of The Thin Blue Line disagreed with the state’s interpretation of the rules.
House rules for the drawing established by The Thin Blue Line do mention a cash option, but the dealer says they were not posted at the auction as required by state rules. Reinacher says the house rules were available but the dealer never asked for them.
The man who won the drawing, John Rasmussen, says he thinks the dealer is just being greedy and the Edwards family ended up with more money with him taking a cash payout.
“You don’t think the dealership is getting ripped off here,” asked Lewis.
“No, not at all” Rasmussen said.
But the dealerships sees it differently. They paid for ticket printing, television ads and other expenses related to conducting the raffle. They say they also paid interest and insurance on the expensive Corvette for months while it sat on the floor, waiting for the drawing.
“We had approximately $30,000 involved and we have not received a dime,” said Taylor Chevrolet President Bill Perkins.
Eventually attorneys got involved and the two sides hit an impasse. Bill Perkins says he got tired of fighting and agreed to walk away with nothing under one condition: he wanted a full accounting of where the money went.
“We don’t know anything because we’re left in the dark,” Perkins said.
“What happens when you ask (The Thin Blue Line) for an accounting of the money,” asked Scott Lewis.
“We get very vague answers”, Perkins replied.
When Action News Investigator Scott Lewis approached The Thin Blue Line President Scott Reinacher and asked for an accounting of where the money went, he said it was a matter of public record.
"Oh, we’ll give you the report," Reinacher said.
"With the full information," Lewis asked.
"Yeah, the same thing we turn into the state,"