Paul F. Latino II helped raise thousands of dollars for the Wachusett Food Pantry over the years through the annual 5K Turkey Trot Road Race in Holden.
But after the 2010 race, pantry organizers said he failed to turn over any of the money raised. Phone calls from the pantry went unreturned, they said. Several months later the fitness center closed, and former associates of Mr. Latino said he appeared to have left town.
Nearly a year later, after repeatedly attempting to contact Mr. Latino to seek information on the 2010 fundraiser, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office reported it has located an address for him at the Kalani Oceanside Retreat in Pahoa, Hawaii.
An employee answering the phone at the nonprofit wellness center confirmed with the Telegram & Gazette this week that Mr. Latino is a volunteer there.
The AG’s office began looking into the Turkey Trot fundraiser last April after being alerted by Holden Police Chief George Sherrill. Letters were sent to Mr. Latino’s home in Holden and to Wachusett Fitness. On Aug. 24, Wachusett Fitness closed.
According to Emalie Gainey, of the AG’s office, Mr. Latino failed to submit any of the required filings requested of him after inquiries made last year into the Turkey Trot fundraiser. The most recent letter, sent to his Hawaii address, gives Mr. Latino until March 4 to reply to the AG’s office, after which he could incur civil penalty fines of up to $500 a day, up to a maximum of $25,000 per violation. He was sent a similar letter in September 2011.
Wachusett Fitness was owned by Mr. Latino and his wife, Linda Burke. Although Ms. Burke was addressed on the initial letters from the AG’s office, Ms. Gainey said the attorney general had been in contact with Ms. Burke and is no longer seeking any information from her.
Ms. Burke, who now lives on Cape Cod, posted on the Wachusett Fitness website last year that she and Mr. Latino had separated. In a letter to the Telegram & Gazette she said she had nothing to do with the 2010 Turkey Trot.
“I hope people don’t lose sight of the fact that the Turkey Trot raised a considerable amount of money over the years for the Wachusett Food Pantry, all at a considerable cost to Wachusett Fitness,” Ms. Burke said. “And I was glad to see that the tradition was continued by others last year.”
But local businesses and donors who contributed to the 2010 race thinking they were giving money to the food pantry say they felt cheated.
“It’s just deplorable that someone could violate the public trust like he did,” said Bob Oriol of Oriol Health Care last October.
Oriol’s company donated $500 to the race that year.
By Noah R. Bombard TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF