Suit claims 'Wizard of Oz' actor was bilked by caretaker

Thursday, July 28, 2011 | 9:34 a.m. CDT; updated 12:52 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 28, 2011

ST. LOUIS — Relatives of "Wizard of Oz" actor Mickey Carroll are suing his former caretaker and three of her friends, accusing them of bilking him out of more than $500,000.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Thursday that the lawsuit filed Monday on behalf of Carroll's eight nieces and nephews accuses the four of getting Carroll to grant them power of attorney prior to his death two years ago. He suffered from Alzheimer's disease.

The actor who played a Munchkin in the movie lived in the St. Louis suburb of Bel-Nor, and the lawsuit was filed in St. Louis County.

The lawsuit alleges that the caretaker and her friends got Carroll to take out a $100,000 line of credit from a bank on the house where he had lived for seven decades.

After Carroll died at age 89, his heirs hired private detectives to find out what happened to his estate. The family said Carroll was frugal and had no debts.

The investigation found that five days after taking out the bank loan on his house, Carroll began signing checks made out to "cash," the first for $42,836. Two days after that he signed two checks, both for $27,000, the suit alleges.

Within a month after the account was opened, all but $250 of the $100,000 loan was gone, and remains unaccounted for, the suit said.

The suit identifies Linda K. Dodge as the former caretaker. The Post-Dispatch could not locate Dodge, and she had no telephone listing.

Carroll died on May 7, 2009, the same day his heirs filed a lawsuit to wrest the power of attorney from Dodge.

At the time, Dodge told the Post-Dispatch that the allegations of missing money were "foolish." She had moved Carroll to her home in Crestwood, where she lived with her husband. She also took care of Carroll's nephew, Frank Parenti, then 54, who has cerebral palsy.

"I took care of a friend that I treated like a family member," she said at the time.

The suit claims Dodge and the others had been taking money from Carroll since at least January 2007. Investigators for Carroll's family alleged that at least $225,071 was embezzled from his bank account. The private investigators also believe a life insurance policy valued at nearly $6,000 was cashed out and that a $110,000 Merrill Lynch account was cleaned out.

It wasn't clear if criminal charges have been considered. A spokesman for the St. Louis County prosecutor was out of the office Thursday.

Carroll grew up in St. Louis and had a hormone deficiency of the pituitary glands. He was just over 3 feet tall when he appeared in "Wizard of Oz" at age 18, though he kept growing into his 40s, eventually reaching 4 feet, 3 inches.

He was in his teens when his father died, and he helped support his family by working in vaudeville. He met Judy Garland in a vaudeville act, leading to his role in the classic MGM film.

Carroll remained a popular figure in his hometown until the time of his death, raising money for charities and making countless appearances.


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