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Misused funds shut down restaurant

Owner held onto money meant for charity
By: Lien Hoang, The Press Tribune
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A restaurateur was booted from his building after news reports surfaced last week that he was pocketing others’ money. Steven Charles Lightfoot admitted on CBS 13 that he kept $1,400 from a fundraiser for an ex-employee who died in a car crash. The man with a dubious crime record seemed to run into financial trouble: Former employees and contractors said he wrote them bad checks, withheld payment and raised money for a nonexistent charity. “There are people that run into problems and do bad things, I understand that,” Traci Ditri told the Press Tribune. Her son Jared worked at Lightfoot’s California Cuisine before he died in August. “And then there are bad people, and I hate saying this because I don’t want to think the world is full of bad people, but I think Steve’s one of those people.” Lightfoot approached Traci Ditri the day of her son’s fatal crash, offering to hold a memorial benefit inside his restaurant at 1100 Orlando Ave. in Roseville. It was not until last week – three months after the fact – that Lightfoot faced CBS 13 and handed over two money orders: one for the fundraiser, the other for Jared Ditri’s last paycheck, which had bounced. As of press time, no complaints have been filed against Lightfoot with local law enforcement or state agencies. But many have come forward to say they feel cheated by Lightfoot, 45, who opened his doors in July. Even his daughter Jordan Maryah has denounced him. Lightfoot reportedly used her diabetic condition to solicit donations for a charity in Maryah’s name, a charity that he never set up. “I feel that he owes me an apology,” Maryah, 19, said. She has been staying with the Ditris in Arden Arcade since Lightfoot expelled her from the Sacramento home he shares with his mother. Maryah, who dated Jared Ditri, said now the onus is on her father to call her. Among the employees who now find themselves out of a job, Jennifer Ellis said Lightfoot owed her a month’s worth of pay. The loss was enough that she cut off phone service, answering the Press Tribune’s questions through email. Ellis wrote that she is short on rent and canceled her son’s 10th birthday party because her boss didn’t pay her. She left work crying Nov. 16, the day property owner Len Travis sent in security to evict Lightfoot. “Travis wants you out, Steve,” the men said, according to Ellis. The reports from CBS 13 spurred them to action. Travis’ bar at the Station remains open. Ellis and others said Lightfoot is now reaching out to employees and contractors to settle his thousands of dollars of debt. The fallen business owner, who didn’t return repeated requests for comment, is unmarried with three children, including 16- and 7-year-old boys. After Lightfoot argued with and kicked out daughter Maryah, Traci Ditri sought out his criminal record to see if he could be violent. What she found was that Lightfoot committed “lewd or lascivious acts” with a child under 14 years old, according to the Megan’s Law website. Following a stint in jail, in 2005, Lightfoot was arrested again in an undercover sting: he had no license to contract as a cabinet installer. Maryah, who said her father had a history of lying, is now talking to the Ditris to establish a real diabetes foundation, named after Jared Ditri and herself. Through tears, Traci Ditri said she will use some of the $1,400 for that charity, as well as to pay for lunches at Dewey Elementary in Fair Oaks. As a student there, Jared Ditri started a program to buy meals for students who forgot or didn’t have lunch money. His mother has yet to cash the money orders as she decides how Jared Ditri would have wanted her to use them. Traci Ditri said she didn’t feel entitled to the donation, but held onto it because she didn’t want Lightfoot to keep money intended for a good cause. Of the strangers who supported her family, Traci Ditri said: “From tragedy great things come, you know?” Lien Hoang can be reached at lienh@goldcountrymedia.com.