Lincoln Heights Village Manager Indicted for Theft in Office Totaling Nearly $67,200
Columbus – A Hamilton County grand jury has indicted the former village manager of Lincoln Heights for theft in office stemming from her alleged misuse of a village credit card and other funds totaling nearly $67,200.
Rebecca Hopkins was indicted Tuesday, Oct. 16, on three counts, including theft in office (felony 3), tampering with records (felony 4) and unauthorized use of a credit card (felony 4) stemming from her abuse of village property.
Village officials and the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office contacted Auditor of State Dave Yost’s office in June to conduct a full investigation. The sheriff’s office worked jointly in the investigation with the Auditor of State’s Public Integrity Assurance Team in identifying nearly $61,200 in unauthorized credit card purchases made with village credit cards by Hopkins between October 2016 and June 2018. Hopkins also was reimbursed $5,994 in non-payroll checks from the village that lacked proper documentation.
Examples of the credit card misuse included transactions unrelated to village business, such as Kings Island expenses, Amazon.com purchases, meals at various restaurants, trips to Key West, Pigeon Forge, Tenn., and New York City, personal utility and cellular phone bills, purchases at retail stores and vehicle repairs.
“Our team, in partnership with the Hamilton County sheriff and prosecutor, was able to determine the magnitude of the theft and force this woman to face the music for her misdeeds,” Auditor Yost said. “Abuse of government credit cards is a problem we’ve seen for years, and the reason why we pushed the Legislature to pass new laws to tighten controls over their use.”
In August, Gov. John Kasich signed House Bill 312 establishing new safeguards to combat credit card abuse at Ohio’s local governments.
The legislation requires all forms of local government to enact credit policies specifying how the cards can be used and who is authorized to use them. HB 312 was sponsored by State Reps. Kirk Schuring (Canton) and Dave Greenspan (Westlake). It was introduced in July 2017 following the release of Credit Card Dangers: Local Governments At Risk Of Theft, which showed more than $1.2 million in public funds have been stolen or misspent at Ohio governments through credit card abuse since 2011.
The report found that some local governments may be putting taxpayer money at risk because they have not instituted basic policies to prevent dishonest employees from abusing government credit cards.
The legislation also bans the use of debit cards, except for certain law-enforcement purposes and grant-related activities, and requires credit card policies to provide guidance on credit limits, reissue periods and the number of cards in use.
Other changes include:
- A requirement for some governmental entities to have their accounts and policies reviewed regularly by a compliance officer.
- Creates reporting guidelines for governmental entities to report the benefits and rewards they have received as a result of their use of a credit card.
The Auditor of State’s office, one of five independently elected statewide offices in Ohio, is responsible for auditing more than 6,000 state and local government agencies. Under the direction of Auditor Dave Yost, the office also provides financial services to local governments, investigates and prevents fraud in public agencies and promotes transparency in government.