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Auditors Issue Finding Against Former Court Employee as Investigation Continues
Columbus – A state audit released today details a theft of almost $175,000 by a former employee of the Lucas County Clerk of Courts office, who was sentenced last week to jail time for theft in office.
The audit of Lucas County also notes that an ongoing investigation by the Auditor of State’s Public Integrity Assurance Team could lead to additional findings against former Deputy Clerk Amirra Itawi in a future audit.
Itawi pleaded no contest to a third-degree felony theft in office charge on April 30. She was sentenced on June 20 to three years of probation beginning with a year split between jail and a substance abuse treatment facility in Toledo. She could spend 30 months in prison if she violates the terms of her probation.
An internal audit of the court’s billing system found 799 instances where Itawi fraudulently voided transactions from December 2016 through July 2017 to conceal her theft of $174,625.
“This is one of the most common tricks we’ve seen thieving government employees use to pocket cash from transactions,” Auditor Yost said. “The only way to thwart the scheme is to implement and adhere to a strong system of checks and balances.”
The scheme makes it appear as if the received funds were refunded through voided transactions, allowing the offending employee to steal payments with little evidence left behind. (Learn more about the scheme on pages 10-11 of this report.)
Auditors issued a $174,625 finding for recovery against Itawi in the audit report. She provided the court with a check for the full amount at her sentencing hearing.
The clerk’s office placed Itawi on administrative leave on July 31, 2017, and fired her two days later. She had worked for the office since September 2012.
A special report published by Auditor Yost in November highlights the dangers local governments face when financial processes go unchecked. According to the report, more than $3.4 million in payments received by local governments in the past decade never made it into the government accounts.
Since 2011, the Auditor of State’s office has helped secure 165 convictions across the state. An interactive map available here provides information on all of the cases.
A full copy of this report is available online.
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.