Raffle ticket holders ask ‘where’s the money?’
NORTH FORT MYERS, Fla. – A raffle that was supposed to benefit a local charity never happened.
“I started it because I had cancer three times and and each time I was out of work,” explained Linda Aiossa-McNally, founder of Working with Cancer Relief Fund, Inc.
Aiossa-McNally started the charity after enduring three rounds of cancer.
“The third time I said ‘it’s my destiny,'” she said. “God’s trying to send me a message.”
While going through her cancer treatments, she couldn’t work, which made keeping up with bills difficult.
“The second time actually I tried to get assistance,” she said. “I called up to try to get food stamps because I still had a job, but I just didn’t have any income. So it’s hard to pay your mortgage, it’s hard to buy food, you can’t pay your electric bill if you don’t have income. …They said ‘I’m sorry you don’t qualify [for food stamps].’ That got me so angry I said I want to start a non-profit to, well, to help cancer survivors get some kind of income while they’re in treatment.”
Shortly after one fundraiser, Aiossa-McNally said she was approached by Bill Galigher.
“We were just hanging out and having dinner,” she said. “They approached us and said, ‘Hey, we want to help you guys…cause we really believe helping cancer patients.’ And they said ‘we would really like to raffle off a car.’ I was like ‘well that would be great.'”
Tickets and fliers were printed. Galigher promised to raffle off a 2007 Toyota Tacoma and give the money to Aiossa-Mcnally’s charity, she said.
But drawing day, Jan. 1, came and went.
“I wanted to know what time we were going to be there to do it and they said they were postponing it and that they were posting new fliers,” she said.
Multiple people who purchased the $20 raffle tickets said no one contacted them regarding the raffle being postponed or offered a refund. One man bought a ticket after the scheduled drawing.
Aiossa-McNally expressed discomfort with how the raffle was handled.
“I felt that the name of my organization was um, not being true to what was being said about it,” she said.
On March 4, Bill Galigher said the raffle was postponed, not cancelled, and that he sold 350 tickets but needed to sell 1,000 before holding the raffle.
Bill Galigher said $10,000 would be going to the charity, and another $10,000 would be for the truck.
Bill Galigher added he would offer refunds within a week to those who bought tickets. When contacted two weeks later, he said it would take another week to tie up lose ends and asked a reporter for a list of those seeking refunds.
Bill Galigher received the list. Another week went by.
When contacted on April 5, he said refunds would take another week.
Charity raffles are highly regulated in Florida, said Carmen Dellutri, an attorney with the Dellutri Law Group.
“You have to give [the raffle prize] away at the predetermined time and date,” he said. “If you don’t do that, you’ve violated the statute and technically criminal charges could be brought against you. Not to mention civil charges for civil theft. And I think that’s where the people can go for triple damages.”
Bill Galigher was contacted on April 29. Refunds should arrive by Monday, he said.
The lack of a raffle has left Aiossa-McNally’s charity in a difficult situation.
“It made me feel uncomfortable,” she said. “I didn’t think it was the right thing. And I’ve always been a person who does the right thing.”
Two ticket holders recently said Bill Galigher contacted them for their addresses to send them refunds.
The Lee County Sheriff’s Office and the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said they were not investigating this incident.