WATERTOWN — The state attorney general’s office claims the father’s relatives of a teenager who survived a Feb. 14 fire that killed the teen’s father and four sisters have not accounted for more than $70,000 in donations taken in for the teen’s benefit.
The office filed state Supreme Court action Tuesday at the Jefferson County clerk’s office against Beth Ann and Kenneth G. Bodah Jr. and Travis J. Bodah asking that the allegedly unaccounted for money be turned over to their niece, Hailey Bodah, the sole survivor of the fire at 906 Myrtle Ave.
Reached Wednesday, Mrs. Bodah said she was unaware of the court filing and referred questions to her attorney. Saying that he would respond to the accusations, Kenneth Bodah reached out to The Times but then later did not return a reporter’s phone calls.
According to court papers, the three failed to turn over money raised by a GoFundMe account for donations promised to Hailey Bodah and from public solicitations organized by the family, local businesses, Mr. Bodah’s former union and other efforts throughout the community. In all, more than $100,000 was raised.
On Sept. 20, an attorney for the defendants hand-delivered a cashier’s check in the amount of $35,021.61 that allegedly came from the GoFundMe account and from an account from the Community Bank.
Four days later, the state A.G.’s office learned that a debit card was used to make $5,363.33 in purchases from Lowe’s Home Improvement store and Wayfair.com, an online home store, that came from a $97,199.29 account held at Watertown Savings Bank under “The Bodah Family Memorial Fund,” the A.G.’s office alleges.
The purchases included a stainless steel sink with faucet, garbage disposal, an under sink garbage can assembly, an electric range, microwave, dishwasher, a side-by-side stainless steel refrigerator, a stackable washing machine and gas dryer and other home contracting supplies.
Another $9,361.61 was withdrawn from the Community Bank account to pay A. Cozzi & Co., a local monument company, and St. Patrick’s Church, the court papers say.
Out of the $106,560.90 that was supposed to go to Hailey Bodah, only $35,021.61 — or nearly 33 percent — has been turned over to her or her mother, Melissa Davey.
The Bodahs should be compelled to immediately pay Hailey Bodah the remaining $71,539,29, the attorney general contends in court papers.
The Bodahs are accused of violating laws pertaining to failing to funds to the beneficiary.
They allegedly solicited, collected, and maintained control of funds solicited for Hailey Bodah and then failed to turn those funds over to her, according to the A.G.’s office.
“Even more egregiously, they have concealed more than two-thirds of the funds from the Attorney General in her efforts to ensure compliance with the statute,” according to the A.G.’s office, “and spent over $15,000 of the money raised in ways that were not ‘for the benefit of H.B.”
Kenneth Bodah is accused of fraud for allegedly failing to turn over funds to the surviving daughter and spending money on other things that were not for her, including home appliances and home contracting supplies.
Kenneth and Beth Bodah also are accused of making false statements to the A.G.’s office about the way they handled the donations.
The Bodahs also failed to provide all the financial records to the A.G.’s office in regards to the contributions, according to the court papers.
They can be assessed $1,000 fines for each time they falsified information and violated the law, court papers state.
The father, Aaron J. Bodah, 38, and his daughters Merissa, 14, Alexa, 8, Erin, 6, and Skylar, 4, died in the fire. Hailey Bodah, who was 13 at the time, escaped the blaze when her father sent her across the street to a neighbor’s house to get help. He then went upstairs to try to save the others.
Investigators blamed cooking on the stove as the fire’s cause.
Recently, Kenneth Bodah was in the news for a plan to purchase the Strauss Walkway on Public Square for outdoor seating for a proposed restaurant.