Fraud Awareness Week Special Report

First in a Two Part Series Highlighting State Auditor Mary Taylor’s Special Investigations Unit Success Stories

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Columbus -

By encouraging all Ohioans to be a watchdog and report government fraud, Auditor of State Mary Taylor is putting public officials on notice that fraud, waste and abuse are not welcome in Ohio government.  The Auditor of State Special Investigations Unit (SIU) is a very successful and integral component to fighting government fraud in Ohio. 

“Our Special Investigations Unit is in the business of protecting your tax dollars. We want the citizens of our state to be aware of this valuable resource,” said Taylor.  “During my term as Auditor of State, I will continue to utilize all resources and best practices available to ensure that Ohio government is free from inappropriate and illegal spending.”

This year, eight people have been criminally charged and six have been convicted of fraud related crimes as a direct result of investigations performed by the unit.  Additionally, the office has released 13 special audits, or audits with a specific, narrow focus that have identified $386,619 in findings for recovery or misspent tax dollars. 

Some of the most notable SIU cases include:

Andover Public Library
Ashtabula County
Audit released 1/04/2007
SUCCESS:  This case identified $89,738.39 in misspent tax dollars.

The library’s most recent audit reported that the library clerk treasurer, Sonia Orahood, misspent $89,738.39 in taxpayer dollars.  The audit report indicated that Orahood forged checks to pay to her credit card bill, did not withold hospitalization benefits from her paychecks, paid for personal purchases, and overcompensated herself from the library’s fund. 

Additionally, she did not deposit cash receipts collected by the Library.  Orahood was indicted on June 21, 2007 for theft and theft in office.  Her trial is set for November 14, 2007.

Imani Leadership School
Cuyahoga County
Audit released 12/19/2006
SUCCESS: This case identified $341,166 in misspent tax dollars.

During preparations for the school’s financial audit, auditors noticed debit card purchases that were unrelated to the school’s activities.  Purchases were made at restaurants, gas stations and retail stores.  Additionally, the school was unable to provide financial records.  The Auditor of State’s office subpoenaed records from the school’s bank and were able to recreate a financial history for the school. 

The audit revealed $341,166 in misspent tax dollars that must be repaid.  It also identified $482,159 in questioned costs because auditors could not locate voucher packages, checks, reports and other supporting documentation related to various federal grants received in fiscal years 2001, 2002 and 2003. 

Several school administrators have been charged in this case. The trial for Donna Johnson, school Superintendent and Ernst Johnson, school board member, is scheduled to begin in December 2007.

Village of Mechanicsburg
Champaign County
Audit released 10/12/2004
SUCCESS:  This case identified $99,661 in misspent tax dollars.

The Auditor of State SIU received an allegation through the fraud hotline, 1-866-FRAUD-OH, that the village clerk/income tax administrator, Susan Cantrell, was misusing funds.  The special audit conducted by the Auditor of State revealed that Cantrell collected income tax receipts but they were not recorded, she illegally spent public funds from the Summer Celebration fund and she deposited village checks payable to various vendors into her personal account.  She also overpaid herself and the former clerk.

Cantrell was sentenced on November 3, 2004 to 10 years in prison for her crime and must pay full restitution in the amount of $81,603. 

To help spotlight Fraud Awareness Week, we will be highlighting other notable SIU success stories later in the week.

The Auditor of State SIU averages 550 allegations each year of fraud or misspending of public dollars.  To report suspicious behavior contact the SIU office toll free at 1-866-FRAUD-OH (1-866-372-8364), by e-mail at www.auditor.state.oh.us or by mail.

Ohio Auditor of State’s Office
Special Investigations Unit
88 East Broad Street
P.O. Box 1140
Columbus, Ohio 43215

The Ohio Auditor of State’s Office is one of the largest accounting offices in the nation.  The office serves more than 5,500 clients and issues approximately 3,400 audit reports each year.