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Instead Of Trial, Coliseum Defendant Now Faces New Charges

Paul Grazar in court
David Proeber
The Pantagraph (Pool)
Paul Grazar was the former general manager at the city-owned arena’s in-house food and beverage company, BMI Concessions.";

Instead of going to trial this week, one of the Coliseum defendants has been re-indicted and now faces two new charges of tax fraud.

Paul Grazar of Normal was one of five former Coliseum managers indicted in 2017 for his alleged role in a multiyear fraud scheme that prosecutors say stole thousands of dollars from the City of Bloomington. Grazar was the former general manager at the city-owned arena’s in-house food and beverage company, BMI Concessions, a central part of the alleged scheme.

A judge dismissed five of six counts against Grazar, 51, over statute-of-limitations issues. Grazar’s attorney then filed a demand for speedy trial, which was set to begin Monday.

Instead, prosecutors on Nov. 7 re-indicted Grazar on theft, money laundering, and tax evasion charges. He was also indicted on two new charges of income tax fraud, records show. Grazar is accused of filing a fraudulent state income tax return for 2014. Prosecutors say he failed to report taxable income received from an early distribution from a life insurance policy totaling $22,215. He’s also accused of failing to file an income tax return for 2016.

The updated theft indictments against Grazar reveal some new details about the alleged scheme. Prosecutors say cash-only sales at beer carts and standalone beer stands around the Coliseum were deliberately underreported in the venue’s bookkeeping system, from at least 2013 to 2016. Around $102,571 in cash was diverted in this manner—with some of it used for “lump sum payments” to Grazar and other Coliseum staff, prosecutors said. The city lost out on $14,005 in commission money because of the scheme, prosecutors said.

Grazar has pleaded not guilty and is due back in court Jan. 4. A message left with his attorney late Monday was not immediately returned.

The cases against three other Coliseum defendants—John Butler, Bart Rogers, and Kelly Klein—remain pending. Former BMI Concessions finance director Jay Laesch reached a plea deal in November, getting probation in exchange for cooperation with prosecutors. The indictments against all five were unsealed in September 2017 after a 16-month investigation.

The former U.S. Cellular Coliseum is now called Grossinger Motors Arena and managed by a different company, VenuWorks.

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Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.
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