Press Release Ohio Auditor of State

Former Director of Purchasing for the Columbus Zoo Pleads Guilty to Grand Theft, Other Counts in Alleged Theft of $2.29 Million

For Immediate Release

Monday, July 8, 2024

COLUMBUS – The former director of purchasing for the Columbus Zoo pleaded guilty Monday as part of a larger investigation into the alleged theft of more than $2.29 million, Auditor of State Keith Faber announced.

Tracy Murnane admitted to felony counts of grand theft; complicity in the commission of theft of a motor vehicle; forgery; telecommunications fraud; and filing incomplete, false and fraudulent returns, plus misdemeanor counts related to the acquisition of motor vehicles without obtaining certificates of title in his name.

Murnane submitted his guilty pleas during a hearing in Delaware County Common Pleas Court. He will be sentenced at a later date.

The Auditor of State’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) and the Attorney General’s Office launched a joint criminal investigation and forensic audit of the Columbus Zoo 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, concerts, sporting events and other acts of personal enrichment. The crimes allegedly took place between 2011 and 2021.

Former Chief Executive Officer Tom Stalf, former Chief Financial Officer Greg Bell, and former Director of Marketing Pete Fingerhut were indicted in September 2023 on multiple criminal counts, including aggravated theft, engaging in a pattern of corrupt activities, telecommunication fraud, money laundering, tampering with records, bribery, conspiracy to engage in a pattern of corrupt activity, and extortion.

Bell pleaded guilty in October 2023 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. He will be sentenced at a later date.

Fingerhut pleaded guilty earlier this month to one felony count of aggravated theft, 11 felony counts of tampering with records, three felony counts of telecommunications fraud, one felony count of conspiracy, and one misdemeanor count of falsification.

As part of a plea agreement with prosecutors, Fingerhut will pay restitution of $675,572.65 and cooperate in the ongoing investigation of Columbus Zoo officials. He will be sentenced at a later date.

Delaware County Prosecutor Melissa A. Schiffel appointed Attorney General Dave Yost’s office to head the prosecution; two attorneys from Yost’s office and one attorney from SIU are serving as special prosecutors in the case.


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