Former Mt. Sterling Official Pleads Guilty to Falsification
Columbus – Victoria L. Sheets, the former bookkeeper in the Madison County village of Mt. Sterling, pleaded guilty today to falsification for assisting a village administrator to obtain his pension benefits early.
Sheets, 69, entered her plea in Madison County Municipal Court, and it was accepted by Judge Eric M. Schooley. Judge Schooley sentenced Sheets to 180 days in jail but suspended that portion of her sentence. Sheets also was fined $1,000, ordered to perform 80 hours of community service, placed on probation for one year, and barred from holding any position where she would handle public funds during the duration of her probation.
“While Sheets did not benefit personally from her actions, what she did was illegal and nearly prevented our office from protecting the interests of Mt. Sterling taxpayers,” Auditor Dave Yost said in response to the plea.
Her crime involved sending the Ohio Public Employee Retirement System (OPERS) a falsified Certification of Final Payroll, in which she knowingly provided a false date of separation for village administrator Joseph Johnson. The date Sheets provided was Nov. 29, 2015, but Johnson’s actual date of separation was Jan. 15, 2016. As a result, Johnson was able to obtain his OPERS payout on Feb. 29, 2016, draining his account before a prosecutor investigating Johnson could freeze it on March 22.
Johnson was under investigation for misusing and abusing village credit cards, and was indicted on 30 counts in July of 2016 totaling more than $724,000 in public funds. Under a plea agreement, Johnson pleaded guilty to seven felonies, including one count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity (a first-degree felony) and two counts each of theft in office, money laundering and tampering with records (all third-degree felonies). Johnson was sentenced on March 6 to 10 years in prison. Robert Smith, assistant chief legal counsel for Auditor Yost, handled the prosecutions of both Sheets and Johnson.
The Auditor of State’s office, one of five independently elected statewide offices in Ohio, is responsible for auditing more than 5,900 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.