Security Guard Charged in Theft from Hospital Fundraiser

A security guard is accused of stealing money last weekend from an Akron Children's Hospital holiday fund-raiser.

All of the $4,400 has been recovered, and an arrest warrant has been issued for Michael J. Kuethe of Akron, who was hired to guard the money. Akron police said Kuethe is expected to surrender to detectives this morning. He faces a felony theft charge.

The 22-year-old was working a security job over the weekend at the Quaker Station reception hall on Broadway where the Children's Hospital Holiday Tree Festival was being held. Kuethe is employed by Securitas Security Services USA Inc. The firm provides security for the Crowne Plaza Quaker Square hotel complex.

Police said the theft occurred Friday night or Saturday morning. The money was kept in a safe in a Quaker Station room that was set aside for tree-festival organizers.

Kuethe is believed to have checked the safe on two occasions before finding it open on a third check. Police said temptation then took over, and he took the money from six bags.

The safe may have been left unlocked, said Randy Budd, vice president and general manager of Quaker Square Management. The tree-festival organizers were given their own combination for the safe, he said.

Neither the room door nor the safe had been forced open, Budd added.

Kuethe's whereabouts Friday night were checked throughsecurity-system and guard records. His story about how many times he had entered Quaker Station and the times he visited other checkpoints didn't match the records, Budd said.

``We're definitely going to be meeting with Securitas,'' Budd said. ``We believe we have all of the procedures in place.... We've been doing business with this company for 20 years and haven't had an incident anything like this with one of their guards. It's unfortunate.''

Kuethe, through family members, declined to comment.

His lawyer, William Whitaker, said Kuethe plans to plead not guilty at his initial court appearance, set for today in Akron Municipal Court. Whitaker would not comment further.

The tree festival, which benefits Children's Hospital patients, ran Nov. 20 through Sunday.

Karen May, the hospital's director of development communications, said several people came forward to offer donations to replace the stolen cash. One family still chose to give after the money was recovered, May said.

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