A former coordinator of events at Bakersfield's Fox Theater who was accused by a concert promoter earlier this year of disappearing with more than $150,000 in event receipts has filed for bankruptcy.
Bob Bender, who won the contract to run entertainment and events at the Fox beginning in January 2016 — but separated from the theater prematurely at the beginning of this year — filed a "report of no distribution" on Oct. 8 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
Bender, who filed with his wife, Deborah Halle, acknowledged in a summary of assets and liabilities that the couple owe Bakersfield-based Icon Concerts $155,000 and the nonprofit Fox Theater Foundation another $43,000.
An investigation by the Bakersfield Police Department into the question of whether Bender might have pocketed the money came up empty.
"Our detective wrote multiple search warrants and took multiple investigative steps," said BPD spokesman Sgt. Ryan Kroeker. "We were ultimately unable to determine if Mr. Bender had ever received any of the funds."
The story of the missing event receipts came to light in July when Icon spoke with The Californian about its concerns.
According to Icon promoter Doug Castro and a news release from Icon sent to a Californian reporter in mid-July, it all started as Icon was gearing up for sold-out shows featuring comedian Jeff Dunham on May 11 and 12. The company "became aware one day before the first show that Fox Theater’s facility management, Bender Entertainment, and its owner/operators, Bob and Debbie Bender, had gone 'missing-in-action' along with the approximately $154,000 from ticket sales and could not be located to discuss the matter," Icon said in its release.
"Fox Theater board members reportedly knew in advance that something was suspicious and withheld the information from Icon Concerts and the talent," Icon said. "At the close of the events, neither Bender Entertainment nor the Fox Theater were able to settle or pay Icon Concerts the revenue for the events."
“The situation is really unfortunate but in good conscience we couldn't let the fans down and cancel the sold-out shows," Castro said in July. Revenues from another event featuring comic Kevin Smith were also affected.
"We paid Jeff Dunham out of our own pocket," Castro said.
Castro did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.
Bakersfield criminal defense attorney Kyle Humphrey, who was retained by Bender last summer, said some people who are talented in other areas are just not very good at business.
"If bankruptcy was a crime Donald Trump would not be our president," Humphrey said.
"This has been really hard on Bob and his wife," he said. "There was never any intention for anyone to be harmed."
Humphrey said his client would have no comment.
According to the court filing, the Benders have $185,800 in assets, including equity in a house, a car, furniture and other possessions.
The documents show the couple owe more than $400,000 in debts, including $151,000 still to pay on their mortgage and nearly $200,000 owed to Icon and the Fox.
"The trustee in the above case has filed a 'Report of No Distribution,'" the bankruptcy filing says, "stating there are no funds available from the estate for distribution to creditors."