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Third Defendant Pleads Guilty to Theft of Student Athletic Growth Fund
For Immediate Release
Columbus – Former Martins Ferry Middle School Principal Michael Delatore is the third and final defendant to plead guilty in the theft of $10,000 from the now-defunct student athletic growth fund. The fund was designed to pay for students’ sports’ related fees and equipment and was funded through donations, mostly made by parents and local organizations and companies. Delatore, along with former Martins Ferry City School District Superintendent Dirk Fitch and Delatore’s brother-in-law Robert Kimble, devised a plan to illegally increase the balance of the fledgling fund so they could syphon off excess donations. Each of the men were convicted of a theft offense.
The Auditor’s Special Investigations Unit handled the investigation, the forensic audit, and served as special prosecutor for the case.
“To take advantage of a program designed to support our students, particularly by individuals entrusted with their future success, is simply inexcusable,” said Auditor Faber. “Last year alone, our Special Investigations Unit assisted in securing 22 convictions of leaders who betrayed the trust Ohioans placed in them and we won’t stop until those that lie, cheat or steal from our communities face justice.”
Kimble worked for an organization that would double contributions made to certain non-profit or civic organizations, such as public schools. Kimble entered into a plan with Delatore to have Kimble’s company donate money to the student athletic growth fund via check. Kimble would use that money to make a donation to the fund, and his company would double it. Fitch would then write a reimbursement check from the fund to Delatore, and the cycle would begin again. The three engaged in this scheme three to four times over about two years. The total amount taken from the fund was approximately $10,000 in reimbursement checks.
On August 16, 2021, Kimble pled guilty in Belmont County Common Pleas Court to one count of Grand Theft, a felony of the 4th degree and was sentenced to two years community supervision, restitution, one-hundred hours of community service and $900.00 in fees.
On November 1, 2021, Fitch pled guilty to one count of Complicity to Commit Grant Theft, a felony of the 4th degree and was sentenced to one year of community control, restitution, and 50 hours of community service.
On February 7, Delatore was charged by way of information with one count of Theft in Office, an felony of the 5th degree, and pled guilty to the charge. He will be sentenced on February 28.
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 Keith Faber, the office also provides financial services to local governments, investigates and prevents fraud in public agencies, and promotes transparency in government.