Former Streetsboro business owner pleads guilty to theft of benefit concert money

by Dave O'Brien Record-Courier staff writer Published:

A Streetsboro businessman has pleaded guilty to stealing more than $23,000 raised at a November 2013 benefit concert for an ailing Cleveland-area musician who was a frequent performer at Streetsboro Family Days, the community's mid-summer entertainment festival.

William "Chef Bill" Thompson, 49, of Cuyahoga Falls, pleaded guilty to grand theft, a third-degree felony, in Portage County Common Pleas Court Aug. 25. He faces up to 36 months in prison and $10,000 in fines.

Portage County Prosecutor Victor Vigluicci said Judge Laurie Pittman will have a restitution hearing prior to sentencing to determine how much money Thompson owes the victim of the theft, Streetsboro Family Days, which conducted the benefit concert for well-known Cleveland musician Sonny Geraci.

A sentencing date has not been set. A message for Thompson's attorney seeking comment on the plea was not returned by press time.

The former lead singer of The Outsiders and Climax, Geraci suffered a brain aneurysm in April 2012 and remains confined to a wheelchair. Streetsboro Family Days organizers partnered with Thompson, the owner and operator of the Stringz & Wingz restaurant and entertainment venue in the Streetsboro Plaza, where a benefit for Geraci's family was Nov. 15 and 16, 2013. It featured more than 20 musical artists and raised nearly $29,000 toward Geraci's medical costs.

However, Streetsboro Family Days organizers said Thompson refused to turn over more than $23,000 collected at the event that was intended for Geraci's benefit. Streetsboro Family Days founder Chuck Kocisko filed a theft report with Streetsboro police on Dec. 30, 2013, and police began an investigation.

Stringz & Wingz closed in January, with the plaza's management company changing the locks. Thompson told the Streetsboro Gateway News that he was trying to sell the business "due to recent bad publicity."

"I've just been dragged through the mud," he said in the paper's Jan. 15 edition.

Two days later, a Portage County grand jury indicted Thompson on one count of grand theft, a third-degree felony. Thompson was arrested a week later in Cuyahoga Falls.

Contact this reporter at 330-298-1128 or dobrien@recordpub.com

Facebook: Dave O'Brien, Record-Courier

Twitter: @RCCrimeWatch

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