Two days after testifying against his former bosses, Ryan Vonhoff received a disturbing voicemail from an unknown number.
“Ryan, you don’t know who I am, but I know you,” said the message, left around noon Oct. 10. “You cost about 30 people their jobs yesterday. You better watch your (expletive) back ... because it will be 100 years before (anyone) finds a piece of you.”
Vonhoff didn’t recognize the voice on the call, but he immediately reported the violent message to the Kane County Sheriff’s Office and to his hometown police in Hinckley.
Kane County Sheriff Lt. Pat Gengler said no charges were filed at the time, but the complaint was made against Paul Gale, who Vonhoff said was his boss at Route 66 Tavern and Grill, formerly located at 3615 E. Main St. in St. Charles. The restaurant opened in August and was forced to close by a court order less than two months later on Oct. 8 after a judge found ties between Route 66 and Bar-B-Que Shack LLC, a business owned by Paul Gale that had a lien on it from Fifth Third Bank because of unpaid loans.
Paul Gale, 44, of the 1300 block of Brook Street in St. Charles, is free on bail for charges of insurance fraud, filing a false police report and 12 counts of unlawful use of a credit card. Criminal charges stemmed from a May incident in which police said Paul Gale filed a false police report for the theft of $30,000 worth of computers while trying to open a Billy’s Road House location, which later opened as Route 66.
The unlawful use of credit card charges were filed as a result of three illegal credit card transactions from customers made without their authorization. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges and has denied connection to Route 66 in court documents.
As one of the conditions of Paul Gale’s bond, he is not allowed to engage in any credit card transactions.
Gale will return to court on the criminal charges Dec. 10.
Vonhoff worked as a chef at Route 66 for a month as the restaurant was opening. Vonhoff said he abruptly was fired after he finished preparing the menu and e-mailed it to Paul Gale.
“Literally as soon as I put the recipe book together, 30 seconds later, he had his manager fire me,” Vonhoff said. “He said it was from inefficiency.”
Vonhoff said he never received payment from Paul Gale or anyone else involved with the restaurant. Vonhoff said Paul Gale verbally agreed to pay him $45,000 a year and now owes him about $3,500 for his month of service. A physical contract was never signed.
Vonhoff said he should be paid for the restaurant’s continued use of a menu which consists almost entirely of his original recipes.
“I created the recipe book,” Vonhoff said. “You’re not going there for the ambiance, you’re going for the food.”
Vonhoff’s proof of sending the recipes to Paul Gale lies in e-mail correspondence, which also was used to help tie Paul Gale to the business in the Fifth Third Bank case.
Prompting the threatening voicemail, Vonhoff testified Oct. 8 in the case of Fifth Third Bank versus Bar-B-Que Shack LLC, formerly Paul Gale’s company, which had not paid back loans to Fifth Third, according to court records.
According to Donna Rizzuto, lawyer for Fifth Third Bank in the case, Bar-B-Que Shack and Paul Gale took out a loan from her client without paying it back.
“What we were able to show in the end was that Billy’s Road House, now Route 66, was operating de facto as Bar-B-Que Shack,” Rizzuto said.
Rizzuto said the lien Fifth Third had on Bar-B-Que Shack then became a lien on Billy’s Road House’s assets, which were in the name of Laura Gale. (Previously known by Route 66 employees as Laura Davis when she was Paul’s fiancee, court documents now refer to her as Laura Gale.) The loans were codebted by Paul Gale and Bar-B-Que Shack, according to Rizzuto.
“All assets were transferred (or commingled) into Billy’s Road House,” Rizzuto said. “It was their position all along that (Laura Gale) was the owner of Billy’s Roadhouse. She took ownership from the onset. For whatever reason, they felt like they needed a new identity.”
Rizzuto said Paul Gale was tied to the business by documents of ownership, photos, witness testimony and his own testimony.
Route 66’s doors were ordered closed last month by Kane County Circuit Judge Alan W. Cargerman, and Fifth Third was granted a turnover order and order of sale of the assets. A Bar-B-Que Shack location at 210 Cedar St. also had its assets seized, but Rizzuto said there was not much left to seize there because it had been closed for a while.
Rizzuto said both Route 66 and Bar-B-Que were rented buildings from a landlord and therefore not seized.
On Oct. 8, the day Route 66 was ordered to be closed, Paul Gale filed for bankruptcy. Rizzuto said they did not go after Paul Gale because of his bankruptcy proceedings.
“We’re not making the connection to Mr. Gale personally,” Rizzuto said. “But more so to Bar-B-Que Shack, which he was the owner and president of.”
Rizzuto said although there is no known tie between Paul Gale and the voicemail received by Vonhoff, she is upset her star witness is being threatened by someone who portrays themselves on the opposing side of the case.
“When somebody threatens a witness that testified in court (and did) the right thing ... it’s ridiculous. The police haven’t really started an investigation, not that I’m aware of,” Rizzuto said.
“I’ve been calling state’s attorney’s offices in Kane and DeKalb counties; each is claiming that one or the other doesn’t have jurisdiction. They should at least investigate this. He’s a victim. You have to make sure he’s protected.”
Vonhoff said even with the threats and the layoffs of his former co-workers, he believes he did the right thing.
“I might have cost a couple of people their jobs,” Vonhoff said, “but if (Paul Gale) keeps doing this for 10 years, it’s going to cost 300 people their jobs.”
Matt Downs, Paul Gale’s attorney in the criminal case, said he knew nothing about Paul Gale being owner of Route 66, denying payment to employees or being involved in any kind of threatening phone call. Paul and Laura Gale and former Route 66 manager Karie Hamby could not be reached for comment.
The Kane County state’s attorney’s office declined to comment on Paul Gale, citing a pending investigation.