Former Red Cross director denies driving off with 9-11 funds

by Greg MassE
Post Independent Staff

The prior director of the Western Colorado chapter of the American Red Cross pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges that he pilfered money that was donated to the 9/11 Disaster Relief Fund and bought a Ford Explorer.

John Drenth, 46, entered the plea in 21st District Court in Grand Junction in connection with a charge of felony theft after he allegedly stole at least $40,000 from the Red Cross’ Liberty Fund.

A trial in the case was scheduled for Sept. 15.

“Essentially there was a misappropriation of 9/11 donations,” Red Cross communication director Caleb Kropf said. “He used it to purchase a Ford Explorer. It was discovered by our internal audit person.”

“Once the misappropriation was discovered, he was placed on administrative leave,” Kropf said.

A full investigation was made into the alleged theft and Drenth was charged soon thereafter.

“The way he misappropriated the funds was he set up numerous accounts where he was the only signature,” Kropf said.

The Western Slope Red Cross chapter includes the Roaring Fork Valley and communities west to Grand Junction.

The chapter’s new executive director, Brannen Ulrick, said the Western Slope Red Cross Chapter did a complete audit since Drenth was fired on Nov. 19.

“At this point, we’re very confident we honored every dollar given to (the 9/11 fund),” he said. “And since then, the volunteers and my staff have done an excellent job.”

In all, about $275,000 was collected from donors across the Western Slope for the 9/11 fund and sent to the national headquarters, Drenth told the Post Independent in 2002.

Ironically, after the Red Cross sustained nationwide criticism in 2002 over how its funds were being spent, Drenth had promised that the Red Cross would adhere to a policy of “allocating every cent collected to those who need it” and said he was among the local chapter directors who called the national office to argue for the need to dole out all the money raised.

Contact Greg Masse: 945-8515, ext. 511

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