Man Charged After Charity Wrestling Donations Disappear

The promoter of a highly publicized wrestling event to benefit autism is under arrest.

James Raymond was arrested on Friday afternoon after it was alleged that in April thousands of dollars in donations promised to a local autism charity from a professional wrestling event were never received.

Raymond was released on a promise to appear from the East Haven Police Department. He was charged with one count of issuing a bad check.

Police and wrestlers with Paradise Alley Professional Wrestling (PAPW) said Raymond's $1,800 check to PAPW ring fee bounced. That was shortly after an autism fundraiser to benefit the Autism Services and Resources Connecticut (ASRC) last April. Wanting to give back to the community, Raymond said, has helped his autistic daughter.

"Why did you do this to our people? It's just not ok, it's not ok. It's completely cruel to our folks to take advantage of," the co-director of the ASRC, Leslie Simoes, asked.

"He took money from children you know what I mean? From charity. You know, as they say in the law, you break the rules you're gunna have to pay," Wrestler Mario Mancini, a co-owner of PAPW, said. 

"He used individuals with autism as a ploy," Simoes added.

Now, there are new allegations.

"It was perfect timing, the rent got paid, and all of the insurance got paid,” small business owner, Bobby Farland, said.

Farland, of Massachusetts, reached out to the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters about Raymond’s wrestling fundraiser in April. 

"The check was for $800. We deposited the check, we paid some bills and a week later got notification the check bounced," Farland said. 

Farland owns the Healthy Body Feeling Station right outside Cape Cod and he agreed to be a vendor for the event. 

"It's just a shame, you know, it really is a shame. To use, to pull at the heart strings of people, and to use your family," Farland said. 

The potential and expected proceeds, plus possible expenses, included eighty front row seats tickets sold at $20 a piece, three hundred floor seats sold at $15 a piece and three hundred general admission entries at $10 each for a total of $9,100.

A referee said he paid nearly $400 for hotel rooms for wrestlers that were flown in for the event.

Four performers said Raymond verbally promised a total of $500 with different fees, but said they never got their money.

Half a dozen wrestlers tell NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters they were paid an undisclosed amounts for their services.

Last month, Raymond initially emailed to say there's no money left to donate, blaming the high cost of putting on the event, like online ticketing, promotional materials and food.

Adding by email: “I realized during the process I did not set a proper budget in place to help me control the expenses as the event was shaping up. I thought with getting bigger name wrestlers it would help me raise more awareness and help me possibly make more net proceeds. I was not taking in to consideration the higher cost a bigger name wrestler would be or where I would be having to fly them in from and hotel costs for these wrestlers."

On Friday, the wrestlers said they're looking forward to a make-up wrestling event on Sunday to benefit the ASRC at the East Haven hockey rink at 3 p.m.

Ralph Murray is a wrestler and co-owner of PAPW, “We're gunna put on a heckuva’ show. And we're gunna make this right. We're gunna give these folks their money."

East Haven Police Lt. Joseph Murgo told NBC Connecticut, "We don't want this incident to discourage people from supporting a cause like this in our community. East Haven always comes together to help support people in need, and we don't want this to discourage anyone from doing that in the future."

The new wrestling fundraiser is this Sunday at 3 p.m. at the East Haven hockey rink. Already, they said they've gathered more than $6,000 for ASRC ahead of this new wrestling event.  Raymond told NBC Connecticut he'd get us a new statement Friday, but needed time. 

Contact Us