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Former Vinton Township Fiscal Officer Pleads Guilty to Stealing Public Funds for Personal Expenses, Including Roadside Zoo Costs
For Immediate Release
Contact: Marc Kovac
Columbus – The former fiscal officer for Vinton Township in Vinton County has pleaded guilty to multiple criminal counts after he stole more than $287,500 in public funds for personal expenses, including costs associated with a roadside zoo he operated, Auditor of State Keith Faber announced.
Cyril S. Vierstra, of Wilkesville, who legally changed his name to “CY” in 2017, admitted to felony counts of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, theft in office, and tampering with records, plus a misdemeanor count of dereliction of duty, during a hearing in Vinton County Common Pleas Court on Wednesday, Oct. 26.
The Auditor of State’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) began investigating “CY” Vierstra after receiving a complaint from Vinton County Auditor Cindy Owings Waugh, after the Vinton Township Board of Trustees contacted her concerning a township check that had been dishonored due to insufficient funds.
A subsequent review of bank records uncovered a number of questionable transactions involving township debit and credit cards assigned to “CY” Vierstra. SIU determined he had used the debit and credit cards and township checks between January 2016 and July 2020 to fund renovations to his residence and for expenses at the Union Ridge Wildlife Center, a nonprofit wildlife refuge he operated. He created fake invoices, billing slips, and other fraudulent documents to hide the activities.
SIU identified $287,565.11 in township funds that were stolen, plus more than $18,000 in interest and fees owed to the Internal Revenue Service for unremitted tax withholdings attributable to “CY” Vierstra. The township paid $11,036.63 of the IRS interest and fees, with $7,682.49 still outstanding.
“CY” Vierstra will be sentenced at a later date.
Since 2019, the Special Investigations Unit has assisted in 93 convictions resulting in more than $4.9 million in restitution (Map of SIU Convictions Since January 2019: https://ohioauditor.gov/fraud/convictions_map.html). The team receives hundreds of tips of suspected fraud annually. Tips can be submitted anonymously online or via SIU’s fraud hotline at 1-866-FRAUD-OH (1-866-372-8364).
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.