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Audit finds illegal spending and fraud at a Scioto County correctional facility

The audit determined 11 directors and employees benefited from $20,090 that was improperly spent, and findings for recovery were issued in that amount. (WSYX/WTTE)

A special audit of a southern Ohio correctional facility uncovered forged receipts, stolen property and illegally spent tax dollars used across the country on liquor, hotels and even a strip club.

Investigators found $20,000 in "fraud and misuse of public funds" at the STAR Community Justice Center in Scioto County.

The audit determined 11 directors and employees benefited from $20,090 that was improperly spent, and findings for recovery were issued in that amount. Yost said about half the amount, $10,523, stemmed from illegal spending during 20 conferences, training seminars and meetings in cities including Las Vegas, Reno, Orlando and Pittsburgh.

“These employees used conferences as a cover for their self-indulgent vacations,” Auditor Yost said. “While the amounts may not be the highest we’ve seen, the egregious nature of what transpired is simply appalling – and at a correctional facility, no less.”

Yost's office found improper use of funds specifically involving a trip to Reno in September 2013, and trips to a Columbus strip club.

“This kind of irresponsible spending is the very reason why credit card policies exist,” Yost said. “Allowable expenditures are determined by policy and state law – not the card holders.”

The audit also revealed a dozen receipts were forged and submitted to the Scioto County Auditor as documentation for expenditures.

Yost said the audit was initiated after the firing of Deputy Director John Saunders in April 2015. Saunders sued Executive Director Charles Philabaun and STAR's governing board for wrongful termination. Yost said the records request revealed Saunders had purchased several items with his STAR credit card and forged receipts. He was also accused of never returning STAR equipment, including an iPad Mini, laptop and accessories.

Yost said Philabaun notified STAR’s governing board, which conducted an internal investigation and contacted the Scioto County Sheriff’s office. The case was referred to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, which collaborated with the Auditor of State’s office on a special audit that launched on September 17, 2015.

In total, State Auditor Yost said the special audit found $20,090 against the following individuals:

  • Deputy Director Josh Saunders - $12,042
  • Executive Director Charles Philabaun - $5,965
  • Director John Adkins - $471
  • Director Matthew McClellan - $368
  • Business Manager Sharon Hart - $627
  • Director Cary Williams - $161
  • Director Shannon Bishop - $157
  • Fiscal Director James T. Holt - $74
  • Adam McPheters - $85
  • Chris Kimbler - $85
  • Danny Reynolds - $55

“Of all places, the fact that these improper expenditures occurred at a correctional facility is particularly alarming,” Yost said. “The leaders of these facilities need to set a good example for inmates trying to get their lives back on track.”

A full copy of the audit and its findings can be found here.

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