Auditor Faber Presents Public Integrity Award to Delaware County Prosecutor Schiffel for Her Work on Columbus Zoo Investigation

For Immediate Release

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

COLUMBUS – Auditor of State Keith Faber presented a Public Integrity Award Tuesday to Delaware County Prosecutor Melissa A. Schiffel for her involvement in the investigation of the alleged theft of $2.3 million from the Columbus Zoo.

The assistance of Schiffel’s office helped uncover a scheme perpetuated over more than a decade by three former zoo officials and led to a 90-count indictment.

“We could not have had the successful investigation we had without the leadership of Prosecutor Schiffel,” Auditor Faber said.

The Auditor of State’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) and the Attorney General’s Office launched a joint criminal investigation and forensic audit in April 2021, shortly after a Columbus Dispatch article brought some of the issues involved to light.

Ultimately, investigators uncovered schemes perpetrated by Columbus Zoo executives, who used zoo funds for vacations, vehicles, and other personal purchases, as well as payments made by contractors to receive favorable treatment.

The crimes allegedly took place between 2011 and 2021.

Former Chief Financial Officer Greg Bell, former Chief Executive Officer Tom Stalf and former Director of Marketing Pete Fingerhut were indicted on Sept. 18, 2023. Bell pleaded guilty in October to 12 counts of tampering with records, one count of conspiracy to engage in a pattern of corrupt activity, and one count of aggravated theft, all felonies.

Since 2019, the Special Investigations Unit has assisted in 117 convictions resulting in more than $8.2 million in restitution (see Map of SIU Convictions since January 2019). The team receives hundreds of tips of suspected fraud annually. Tips can be submitted anonymously online or via SIU’s fraud hotline at 866-FRAUD-OH (866-372-8364).


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 Keith Faber, the office also provides financial services to local governments, investigates, and prevents fraud in public agencies, and promotes transparency in government.

Public Affairs
Contact: Marc Kovac