A step ahead of the law: The final days


EDS NOTE: This is the sixth and final article in a weekly, multi-part series retelling some of Don Wright’s history in Greenville as he remembers it.

Frank from Indianapolis had a good name, and he was brutally honest in his evaluation of me. Below are my faults, according to him, which will be of no surprise to some readers, I’m sure.

  • 1. Your formal education is inferior.
  • 2. You live in substandard housing for a man of your means.
  • 3. Your close friends are mostly uneducated and ill-informed people who can contribute nothing to your success.
  • 4. You let your emotions overrule your reason.
  • 5. You are vindictive and revengeful to the point of paranoia.
  • 6. You have a total disrespect for the law and accepted public behavior.
  • 7. Your mode of dress is below standard for the circle you are about to enter. You need an office. You can’t operate a business this size out of your shirt pockets.
  • 8. Your contempt for the female sex is so obvious it is offensive.
  • 10. You have a violent temper that must be brought under control.

Frank’s conclusion:

  • A man cannot serve two masters at the same time. One or the other will dominate.
  • Eliminate all negative thoughts and people from your life. Eliminate emotion and replace with cold reason.
  • Take your faults one at a time and eliminate them or bring them under control. I predict that if you dedicate yourself to serving only the master of ambition and rid yourself of all distractions, your natural ability and universal good luck will lead you into the ranks of wealthy men.
  • Be sure to grow individually with your assets.

I read Frank’s report and I admitted to myself, he was right. I paid for his advice and I took it. He opened my eyes. A person can be so busy working they don’t see things that are right in front of them.

There were only two bars that I was not able to help the owners make more money. The first one was owned by an older man who said he didn’t want any more business; he just wanted to make a living. The second one, Frank figured out in 30 minutes, the barmaid was stealing. I never offered this information to the owner, I knew he was sleeping with her.

I tried to change my faults, and where it was not possible, I learned to cover them up so people didn’t see them. There is no way to tell how much that $2,000 investment in Frank brought back to Wright Enterprises.

In 1995, I got cancer. The people at Riverside in Columbus told me they thought they could get me two years. My son was a college professor and knew nothing about my business.

To bring you up to speed, I had sold the Pure Oil to Art Smith sometime in the late ’60s. I gave the pool room to Terry Thompson, a long time employee. I don’t remember the year.

The farms and rentals in Ohio, and the land in Kentucky, my son wanted me to keep. He felt he could manage them and keep his job.

The problem was Treaty City Coin. Not everyone could run this kind of business. I sold Treaty City to my bookkeeper and two of my electronic technicians. I knew she could run the office and handle the money, and they could keep the equipment working. We kept the sale quiet. A lot of people owed me favors, but not them. I didn’t want them to lose any business. As I felt like it, I worked for them so I would be seen around. All my locations knew I had cancer.

I had always known that someday the big bust would come. I also knew that when that happened I was going to quit right then – forever. Fools that draw attention to themselves and then go back to the well keep our prisons full.

The people with the badges paid me and multiple locations in several counties a visit on December 18, 1996. They seized $82,000 of my money, 21 real estate properties, and lots of equipment. It was time for the lawyers.

I hired an attorney to represent me, one to represent Wright Enterprises, Inc., and three different ones to represent each of the people I’d sold Treaty City Coin to. The idea was to have a lawyer only responsible for protecting one person or entity.

It took, if I remember right, about four years of negotiating and jockeying around until we reached a settlement. I was allowed to donate the $82,000 plus an extra $25,000 to Darke County for a total of $107,000; take a fifth degree felony, and be on probation for one year with 40 hours of community service.

I also got back the 21 properties they seized. They destroyed the equipment.

While all of this was going on I had discovered Dr. Howard Abromowitz in Dayton. He told me what I wanted to hear.

“If we don’t kill this cancer, it will kill you,” he said.

“So let’s get after it,” I told him.

For several years, we cut and burned, and 21 later I’m still here.

For my community service I sat at the desk inside of the courthouse and told visitors how to find the office they were looking for. The desk was right at the elevator. Sheriff deputies, city policemen, drunks and thieves going to court passed by there. They all handed out cruel and unusual punishment, they laughed at me.

The judge from Toledo gave me back all my guns and my civil rights. I got attached to my probation officer James Mollette. I’m not just saying that, I really liked him. I was very proud of him when I read that he is now head of the Probation Department.

As all this was going on, a vending company in Cincinnati made an offer for Treaty City Coin and my former employees sold it to them. I had adjusted their contract after the bust. I knew it was not them, but me the badges were after. Treaty City Coin was my baby. It wasn’t easy to see it disappear. That’s life.

Now we come back to Wright Enterprises. Today, there are only three employees. Pat Rademachir runs the office and has worked for me for 32 years. She watches the money closer than I do. She has the greatest quality a woman can have, she knows how to keep her mouth shut.

My wife Pepper is a new citizen. She did everything the right way. She loves this country. She said she wanted a job so she could pay taxes and not be a mooch.

I still get a paycheck every week. Pepper and I take care of the horses at the farm. Wright Enterprises hires all private contractors to do everything. My friend of 50 years, Bob Sherry, manages the farms and does a lot better job than I ever did. I have a timber consultant in Kentucky that manages the timber. I have an oil lawyer that owns oil wells himself who looks after the oil and gas interest.

Wright Enterprises was incorporated with 100 shares of stock at $5 per share. I have no idea what a share of stock is worth today. It’s not important to me. My life was never about the money. It was the game…I loved the game. The money is how you keep score.

I love every inch of Darke County. I can’t imagine spending my life anywhere better. I wish I could tell all the old men that are gone, “thank you for helping me realize the American dream.”


By Don Wright

A step ahead of the law

Don Wright is the president of Wright Enterprises Incorporated founded on April 24, 1956. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.

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