Metro-East News

State sues Sheri Coleman’s brother; says $33K in charity money was misspent

A family photo shows Chris and Sheri Coleman, and their sons Garrett and Gavin.
A family photo shows Chris and Sheri Coleman, and their sons Garrett and Gavin. Provided/BND

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the president of a charity formed in honor of Sheri Ann Coleman and her two sons, alleging more than $33,000 was misspent from the charity’s accounts.

Madigan filed the complaint in Cook County Circuit Court against Mario Decicco of La Grange Park, for allegedly misappropriating $33,173 from Sheri Ann & Her Boys, a violence-prevention charity created in honor of his sister, Sheri Ann Coleman, and her sons Garett and Gavin, who were murdered in their Columbia home in May 2009.

Sheri Coleman’s husband, Chris Coleman, was found guilty of murdering his wife and two children. He is currently serving a life sentence at an undisclosed prison. His latest appeal was turned down in December.

The lawsuit alleges violations of the state’s Charitable Trust and Solicitation for Charity Acts. An investigation by Madigan’s office revealed that of the $35,725 held by the Sheri Ann & Her Boys charity, only $2,550 of the charity’s funds appeared to have been spent on violence-prevention efforts, which is the charity’s stated mission. The lawsuit alleges that at least $33,173 of the charity’s funds appeared to have been improperly withdrawn as cash and spent on expenses outside of the organization’s mission.

“The circumstances in this case are extremely disheartening,” Madigan said. “I am filing this action to ensure that the misappropriated charitable funds are recovered and dedicated to violence-prevention efforts as originally intended.”

According to court filings, the charity had at least four bank accounts at three banks opened in 2009 and 2010. When accounts at U.S. Bank and Commerce bank were closed in 2010, cashier’s checks were issued totaling more than $35,000. Those checks then were deposited into accounts at JP Morgan Chase Bank, from which $2,500 was donated to the Violence Prevention Center of Southwestern Illinois and $50 was spent on the website.

But over the next year, more than $28,000 was withdrawn in small cash withdrawals ranging from $100 to $2,000. There are also discrepancies in the records, according to the court filings. According to the suit, Deciccio could not account for the disposition of any of the cash withdrawals.

The Attorney General’s lawsuit asks the court to remove Decicco as the charity’s president and dissolve the charity. It also asks that the court order a full accounting of the charity’s funds that Decicco withdrew as cash or used from 2010 to the present and hold Decicco liable for assets that he misused or for which he is unable to account.

The complaint also asks the court to ban Decicco from acting as a charitable fiduciary in Illinois. If the court finds that he used more than $1,000 for personal use, he could be subject to a civil penalty fine of $50,000 for each disbursement. The court filing details 54 transactions among the cash withdrawals alone.

The family filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Coleman’s employer, Joyce Meyer Ministries, alleging that his employers should have known he was a danger to his wife and children and warned them. That case is pending in Monroe County, and no court dates had been set as of Tuesday, according to court officials.

Assistant Bureau Chief Barry Goldberg and Assistant Attorney General Pasquale Esposito are handling the case for Madigan’s Charitable Trust Bureau.

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