Richard Thebo of Full Spirit Ministries accused of treating shelter funds as petty cash

Richard Thebo, 71, has run Fort Collins' Open Door Mission for nineteen years. But if the Colorado Attorney General's Office has its way, his connection with the homeless shelter will end soon. The AG has filed a lawsuit charging Thebo and associates such as his son with misusing funds and more. Example: Thebo allegedly portrayed his residence as a halfway house when the only homeless people living there were his "female companions."

Thebo has vociferously denied any wrongdoing to organizations such as 7News and the Fort Collins Coloradoan. But the Fort Collins Police Department is currently investigating the organization, which also does business as Open Door Mission, and the attorney general's complaint, on view below in its entirety, offers up a slew of accusations.

According to the document, Full Service Ministries/Open Door Mission was founded in 1986, and since then, Thebo has typically chosen board members among his family and friends, including son Darren and prison ministers Andrew and Patsy Kaminski, all three of whom are named as co-defendants.

In 2007 and 2008, respectively, Thebo is said to have purchased separate homes for himself and Darren, and charitable funds were used for some mortgage payments, as well as improvements like "high-end" carpeting, fencing, landscaping and the installation of a waterfall.

These outlays were allegedly justified because the abodes served as halfway houses, but they weren't listed as such on the charity's tax returns. "Moreover," the complaint reads, "the homeless individuals who lived at...Thebo's residence primarily were his female companions." As for Darren, the AG's office contends that only two people had lived with him since he moved into the house, and just one of them came from the shelter.

Likewise, Darren allegedly drew from charitable funds to pick up tools for his construction business, and he used a truck Richard bought with dollars from the same source in that capacity, too. Richard is also accused of misdirecting cash to cover for some of Darren's child-support payments and dental work. And when the homeless would offer up a nightly fee to stay at the mission (the Coloradoan reports the charge as $5), Richard supposedly pocketed many of the bills or gave them to Darren, treating them as "petty cash."

In addition, the state contends that the organization's website made false claims about, for instance, the number of people the mission served and fed -- although not at present. Right now, the Open Door Mission site is listed as under construction.

The AG's office claims Thebo and company pilfered about $31,000 in charitable assets -- not a huge sum as these things go. Still, Thebo shows no signs of meekly confessing. When asked about the investigation by the Coloradoan, Thebo said, "Give me a break. It's ridiculous. It's just not true" -- and he's secured an attorney to fight on his behalf.

Here's the aforementioned complaint.

Full Spirit Ministries Complaint

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More from our Colorado Crimes archive: "Ann Crall: Cancer-faking Lakewood cop's wife pleads guilty to fraud, could get 15 years."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
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