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Donation by Munchkin actor prompts police inquiry

Tuesday, October 21, 2008 | 6:54 p.m. CDT

BEL-NOR — The caretaker for one of the last surviving Munchkins says a former suburban St. Louis police chief took advantage of him.

Now that police chief has resigned amid questions about what he did with the Munchkin's money.

Mickey Carroll, 89, one of the last surviving Munchkins from the 1939 classic film "The Wizard of Oz," has lived for years in the village of Bel-Nor, a St. Louis suburb.

His caretaker, Linda Dodge, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the actor often gave money to Bel-Nor's former police chief , Matthew Lauer, at the chief's request. She said Carroll thought he was supporting the police by buying gear.

Earlier this year, while reviewing Carroll's financial records, Dodge came across a check made out to Lauer and questioned where the money was going.

Dodge took her concerns to Village Chairman Kevin Buchek, who referred the case to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, which is investigating.

However, Buchek did say that he never saw any evidence that Lauer misused donations and that money from Carroll has helped the village buy such things as lights for the police cars.

Lauer, 38, stepped down this month, saying he's moved on to something else.

He did not immediately return a phone call to The Associated Press seeking comment Tuesday.

In June, Carroll sought a restraining order against Lauer.

He said the chief had pocketed a $2,000 donation intended for the village, and that Lauer then threatened him, in phone calls and visits to his home, to change his story to make it appear as if the donation had been a gift. Lauer returned the money.

The $2,000 "was a donation for police department," Carroll wrote in his request for the restraining order. "Not a personal gift to the police chief." A judge dismissed the case when Carroll failed to appear in court.

In an interview with the Post-Dispatch, Lauer dismissed Carroll's accusations as "rumors" but did not respond to requests for further comment.

 


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