A Pike County Sheriff has been accused of stealing thousands of dollars, seized in various drug arrests throughout the county, and using the funds to fuel his “compulsive” gambling problem.
The investigation, currently underway, stems from an anonymous complaint filed against Sheriff Charles Reader on November 9.
The complaint (copied below) details that the sheriff was able to steal the money by taking the funds from an office safe that only he had access to. He was able to do so because the safe is kept inside his office and only he has access to it. The complaint notes that he “never has any money” and gambles compulsively. The funds in question were seized in local drug arrests made within Park County. He is also accused of taking cars out of the local impound lot and giving them to his daughter for her personal use, and demonstrating behavior unbecoming of an officer.
The complaint alleges that he has also borrowed “large sums of money” from two of his deputies after gambling away his own, and owes a local car dealer more than $20,000.
“[Sheriff] Reader just does whatever he wants and no one ever calls him on it,” the complaint states, alleging additional abuses such as taking impounded vehicles for personal use among other indiscretions.
“We are scared to death of him,” the anonymous complainant writes.
The misuse of funds acquired by police officers nationwide, most notably in civil asset forfeiture, has been the source of national controversy and bipartisan public outcry in recent years.
Last year, Gov. Kasich (R-OH) signed into law House Bill 347 (HB 347) specifically to curb abuses in civil forfeiture. The law significantly raised the standards by which funds under $15,000 could be seized by police officers from a “preponderance of the evidence” to “clear and convincing evidence.” However, while it also provided a number of additional protections, it did not directly address how to manage funds seized in criminal cases.
Currently, the allocation of funds seized by local departments in criminal cases has little to no oversight, standards, or national regulation. This is how Reader was able to keep the money in his office. The use of these funds varies widely from county to country. Oftentimes the funds are directly folded into the county budget to be used on community projects. However, in many counties, police departments are permitted to take the funds and spend them within the department at their discretion, without accountability.
Complicating matters, Reader is currently involved in the investigation into the largest homicide case in the state’s history. Eight members of the Rhoden family were murdered, the youngest of which was 16 years old, in what has been described as an “execution-style slaying.”
Last month, six members of the Wagner family were arrested for involvement in the murders, four of which were accused of performing the executions and, if found guilty, could face the death penalty. Though no official motive has been disclosed, the murders are alleged to be in connection with an illegal marijuana drug operation the Rhoden family was involved in. The complaint directly calls into question both his demeanor and professionalism, which could hinder the case against the Wagner family.
Pike County Prosecutor Rob Junk has requested a special prosecutor be assigned to investigate the sheriff.
Neither Reader nor his attorney has yet made a public statement regarding the investigation.
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