A prosecutor case summary from Ohio Auditor of State Keith Faber’s office provides more details on the Ohio auditor’s case against Charles Reader, who is currently suspended from the office of Pike County Sheriff.

In December 2018, an investigation into alleged misconduct in the sheriff’s office was opened by the Ohio Auditor’s Office.

The Ohio Auditor’s Special Investigations Unit took a lead role in the case, according to the auditor’s office.

A Pike County Grand Jury indicted Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader on 16 charges on June 28, including seven charges of Conflict of Interest, four charges of Theft in Office, two charges of Theft, one charge each of Tampering with Evidence, Tampering with Records, and Securing Writings by Deception.

Appearing in the Pike County Court of Common Pleas on July 2 for arraignment, Reader pleaded not guilty through his attorney James Boulger to all charges on which he was indicted in June.

In July, Reader agreed to a provisional suspension. His suspension is with pay. However, according to the Ohio Revised Code, a political subdivision may file a civil action to recover compensation paid to a former public official “from the date of the former public official’s suspension to the date the former public official pleads guilty to or is found guilty of any felony with which the former public official was charged.”

The prosecutor case summary from Faber’s office provides background on the case: “On Friday, November 9, 2018, the Auditor of State (AOS) received an anonymous complaint on the agency fraud hotline complaint website of alleged misconduct by Pike County Sheriff, Charles S. Reader. The misconduct includes allegations of his mishandling evidence monies and using it for personal use, borrowing monies from employees and the public without paying them back, allowing his daughter to drive cars from the Pike County Sheriff impound lot, being unstable and threatening people.”

According to the prosecutor case summary, a search warrant was obtained and executed on the sheriff’s office by the Waverly Police Department, assisted by AOS investigators, on Dec. 13, 2018.

“Sheriff Reader was cooperative in allowing access to a safe under his desk, of which AOS SIU (Special Investigations Unit) inspected,” the summary states. “There was no money in the safe located under Sheriff Reader’s desk, only a couple unrelated documents.”

The summary further states that a larger safe located in an adjacent office was inspected and evidence from one case in this safe included thousands of dollars and weapons. The summary stated that all items in this safe appeared to be accounted for and had evidence sheets with them.

According to the summary, during the execution of the search warrant on Dec. 13, 2018, Reader told AOS investigators that he started gambling more during the Rhoden homicide investigation in 2016 when he was staying up late at night and could not sleep. He allegedly told investigators that his wife was threatening to divorce him over his gambling and said that he had gone to Eldorado Scioto Downs with his wife the previous Saturday.

AOS investigators reportedly contacted supervisors with the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) and Eldorado Scioto Downs Racino regarding Reader’s gambling frequency and for gambling records, and the summary states that records provided indicated that Reader visited the Hollywood Casino Columbus on Dec. 2, 2017, and lost $739.

“Eldorado Scioto Downs Supervisor Will Scott provided an Annual report of Activity on Sheriff Reader’s account for 2016, 2017 and 2018,” the summary states. “He further stated that Sheriff Reader frequents Scioto Eldorado Downs on average, three to five times a month. Sheriff Reader’s loss amount has steadily increased over the last three years at the Eldorado Scioto Downs Racino, more than doubling each year, as his losses were recorded as $595.37 for 2016, $5,526.96 for 2017 and $11,033.54 for 2018.”

The prosecutor case summary also states that on Dec. 14, 2018, Reader’s attorney, James T. Boulger, spoke with Special Prosecutor Robert Smith and explained that Reader would like to meet with AOS investigators to turn over something that should have been in the safe under Reader’s desk. The item was “an accordion file containing several evidence envelopes containing seized U.S. currency related to drug cases he explained were still open,” the summary states. This was reportedly turned over to investigators on Dec. 20, 2018, during a meeting with Boulger and Reader at Boulger’s office in Chillicothe.

The accordion file reportedly contained 14 evidence bags containing monies.

“Neither Mr. Boulger nor Sheriff Reader advised AOS investigators that any of the evidence envelopes had been tampered with or altered in any manner,” however the summary alleges that one of the evidence bags appeared to have been tampered with.

“Upon reviewing this evidence bag, it appeared that the bag was initially sealed, then resealed,” according to the prosecutor document. “Upon further review, it appears the back of the evidence bag had been attempted to be heat sealed. This bag reflected that it contained $6,020.”

According to the prosecution, investigators reviewed video of the original money count of the $6,020 and that “the money in the video was clearly different than the money turned over by Atty. Boulger.”

“In the video, there was a stack of twenty dollar bills that had been well circulated, and folded in the middle, creating a larger stack,” the summary states. “After careful examination of the currency in the evidence bag in the possession of AOS, it was determined out of the $6,020 there was $2,040 in twenty dollar bills that were crisp and appeared to be newer bills which contained numerous serial numbers in sequential order. At no time during the meeting with Sheriff Reader and his attorney on December 20, 2018, did either one advise AOS investigators that the evidence bag containing these funds had been tampered with or that the funds had been removed and substituted with other funds.”

According to prosecution, during a March 30 interview with Captain James Burchett, who had counted this money originally, Burchett noted discrepancies between the appearance of the bills in photos taken from video of the original money count in 2017 and the bills in photos of what was turned over by Reader on Dec. 20, 2018, noting that the bills in the 2017 video were all folded over, whereas the bills turned over in 2018 did not contain creases and looked like they came from a bank.

“Capt. Burchett explained he’s never taken drug money as evidence that looked neat, crisp and new,” the prosecution document states. “Capt. Burchett insisted several times, ‘That is not the money I counted, guys.’ He stated the bags shouldn’t have looked like that. He insists he is very particular and tries to seal the bags very neatly. Capt. Burchett kept repeating, ‘He stole the ... money.’”

The summary document also noted alleged irregularities regarding two vehicles impounded by the sheriff’s office, including a 2013 Nissan Versa that allegedly was purchased at sheriff’s auction with money provided by Reader to a local businessman and vendor who has had contracts with the county. The document alleges that Reader instructed an employee of the sheriff’s office to “dirty” the vehicle and that it was also falsely stated that the vehicle did not have keys, ensuring “that the selling price would be less than what would be normally bid for this vehicle and drew a much less interested group of buyers.”

According to the documents, Reader is alleged to have come into possession of the vehicle after it was purchased for $2,000, and he is alleged to have sold the vehicle for $5,500.

Another allegation claims that Reader asked a special deputy and his girlfriend about bidding on a 1991 Chevrolet Silverado for him at the 2017 Pike County Sheriff’s auction. According to the prosecutor case summary, the girlfriend successfully bid on the vehicle for the sheriff, but it was her boyfriend, the special deputy, who paid $350 to Reader, with Reader agreeing to pay him back. According to the summary, Reader allegedly took possession of the vehicle and had the title placed in his father’s name. Reader has allegedly failed to reimburse the special deputy the $350.

The summary also alleges that Reader “frequently went to his employees and local businessmen to borrow money.”

A jury trial for Reader is scheduled for Feb. 3, 2020.

James Nelson is currently serving as interim sheriff.

Email at mlucas@newswatchman.com; follow on Twitter @NewsWatchman.

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