VENTNOR — Michael Einwechter, president of Amazing Ventnor, a nonprofit organization that promotes community events, was arrested Wednesday, Nov. 29, and charged with stealing funds meant for residents of Puerto Rico devastated by Hurricane Maria.
Einwechter, 38, was charged with theft of money and checks that were the proceeds of a Puerto Rico benefit concert held Sunday, Oct. 15, at Ski Beach, police Chief Douglas Biagi said.
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The arrest came after a months-long investigation conducted by Ventnor Detective Sgts. Jason Rzemyk and Ted Bergman. Einwechter was interviewed and charged on Wednesday.
Police seized his four-wheel drive truck, which is painted to look like a Tonka truck.
As of noon Nov. 29, Einwechter was in the custody of police and not available for comment. Biagi would not release the amount of money that was missing, but said it's "more than $500, and could be less than $20,000." Einwechter has no prior criminal history, Biagi said.
After his release from police custody, Einwechter notified his Facebook followers: "Before I disappear on social media. I am facing these charges. Article is out. I'm not going into details until I get to speak to an attorney. After the dust settles and all is clear I will try to find it in my heart to do good for the community again. I am sincerely sorry it has come to this. I am sorry to anyone and everyone involved."
The fundraiser was well attended by local citizens, volunteers, organizations, musicians and merchants, Biagi said in a press release.
The proceeds were to assist hurricane relief for United for Puerto Rico, which aided in shipping supplies to families in Puerto Rico.
On Oct. 16, Einwechter posted on the Amazing Ventnor Facebook page that the event raised $14,524, and that additional donations were being made online.
“Unfortunately, there are people out there that seem to think numbers don’t add up,” he wrote.
Einwechter later wrote that the funds represented the “proceeds” of the event.
“That’s why we didn’t advertise 100 percent. It’s immoral to state so, we said all proceeds,” he wrote on Oct. 25. “Most know what it means. Most know events take money. We can’t say a certain percentage. But at least people know there are no salaries or wages. 100 percent volunteer.”
A later event report posted on the Amazing Ventnor Facebook page showed proceeds of $17,015. Income was stated at $23,859, with $6,844 in expenses.
Biagi said detectives spoke with representatives of United for Puerto Rico. “But the numbers didn’t add up,” he said.
Einwechter is also the owner of Little Ripe Tomato Entertainment, which is listed on Facebook as a production company.