KIRAN: Thousands of dollars missing from fundraiser meant for St. Jude’s Hospital
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Co-Ed’s for Corey and Cody Gueho is an annual fundraiser held in honor of twins Corey and Cody, who were diagnosed with cancer. Frederick Gueho is their father.
“Age of 13, Cody had developed leukemia,” said Gueho. “The next day, we were on a plane going to Memphis, St. Jude.”
Cody’s twin brother, Corey, started the fundraiser in his brother’s name and even came to WAFB in 2006 to promote the event.
“I gave bone marrow to him and it worked for a little while. November 20th of ’95, he passed away and as a tribute to him, we’ve been doing this just in memory and honor of him,” Corey Gueho said in an interview with WAFB.
But seven years later, Corey also died from cancer. His dad says Corey had one dying wish.
“His wife had asked him, ‘How long does he want this tournament to continue?' and he said, ‘Forever,’” said Gueho.
Cody and Corey’s first cousin, Ronnie Bonaventure, was the helping hand for the fundraiser. After Corey’s death, Bonaventure took over the fundraiser and continued promoting the event every year in Corey and Cody’s names.
“Cody actually passed when we were in the 8th grade at 14-years-old, and I was just too young to do anything,” Bonaventure said in a 2019 interview with WAFB.
The annual fundraiser was held in the small town in Pointe Coupee Parish, Fordoche. It’s something everyone looked forward to every single year. So much so that over the nearly 20 years, the small town ended up raising nearly $500,000.
But in 2019, Hurricane Barry forced the fundraiser to be cancelled. Bonaventure is Frederick Gueho’s nephew and went by his aunt and uncle’s home to get the fundraiser rescheduled for the following weekend.
“I said, ‘It’s not going to happen.’ I told him and Ronnie left out of the house kind of mad and right when he left out, I looked at the wife, and I told her, ‘Something is wrong. Something is wrong somewhere,’” said Gueho.
That’s when the family started checking bank statements and all outgoing checks. The checks they provided to the 9News Investigators showed some were made out to cash, others were paying Bonaventure’s mortgage, loans, and personal bills.
"He needed to go to jail right then. That's how aggravated I was because he ruined Cody and Corey's name," said Gueho.
Gueho says over the years, $26,000 was taken.
“It come out to where he had a gambling problem. He got hooked up with some gambling right here in Baton Rouge in some way and that’s where his personal money was going, to gambling, and the account was paying his personal bills,” said Gueho.
Frederick Gueho is also the police chief in Fordoche.
KIRAN: Why didn’t you put him in jail?
CHIEF: My wife didn’t want me to.
KIRAN: Is this criminal, what he did?
CHIEF: Not, well taking the money out thing... yes. It’s misappropriation of funds. Yeah, it is.
Each check required two signatures, Bonaventure’s and Chris Gueho’s. Chris was the older brother of the twins who died from cancer, but was not very active in the account, trusting his cousin with the money.
"His name was forged on a lot of checks," said Gueho.
"It's not his money to spend. It's money that we donated to go to St. Jude and that's where it should be," said Fordoche Mayor Teddy Gros.
Gros says Bonaventure is currently serving as a council member in Fordoche.
"I asked him if any of this is true, and it gets bigger than it is already, I would ask you to resign from the town, get off the council and he agreed to that," said Gros. "Everybody is pissed off, and I wouldn't be doing this interview if I wasn't hearing about it everyday."
Gros says the entire town is upset because just about everyone stepped up to donate. Since then though, Chief Gueho says Bonaventure has paid the money back, with checks for $10,000 and another for $15,000. He says Bonaventure’s family gave the remaining $1,000. Chief Gueho added the family would be sending the $26,000 where it was meant to go: St. Jude.
“Every penny of it is going to St. Jude,” said Gueho.
KIRAN: If this was not your nephew, would he be doing time?
CHIEF: Well it, again... I’m not for putting people in jail and people know that already. A lot of people in Fordoche know the way I operate. If he needs to do time, if he needs to go to court and stuff, yes, he does need to do this so he can understand where he went wrong at.
Chief Gueho realizes the fundraiser has lost the trust of his community, but truly hopes it can continue.
“The Town of Fordoche would still support it, but it would have to be someone else in charge,” said Gros.
The chief says Bonaventure will no longer have any part in Co-Ed’s for Corey and Cody Gueho, but hopes the rest of Fordoche will.
“I apologize to them right now because I didn’t keep a better eye on the account,” said Gueho. “I want to keep this fundraiser going as long as I can, and I’m trying to get the trust back.”
The 9News Investigators reached out to Bonaventure’s attorney. He says he has no comment as of now. Meanwhile, Chief Gueho says given that Bonaventure is his nephew, he’s hoping an outside agency will step in to investigate.
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