PIKE COUNTY, Ohio (FOX19) - A Pike County grand jury indicted Sheriff Charles Reader Friday on 16 charges including conflict of interest, theft in office, theft, tampering with evidence, tampering with records and securing writing by deception.
The Ohio Auditor of State Special Investigations Unit took a lead role in the case that started a year ago, according to a news release. An anonymous complaint sparked the probe in November.
The sheriff faces eight felonies and eight misdemeanors:
- Two counts of theft - one is a fifth-degree felony and the other is a first-degree misdemeanor
- Two counts of tampering with evidence, a third-degree felony
- Four counts of theft in office, three are fourth-degree felonies and one is a fifth-degree felony
- One count of securing writing by deception, a fifth-degree felony
- Seven counts of conflict of interest, a first-degree misdemeanor
The indictment says that Reader requested and/or accepted various loans from county employees and vendors.
Those loans, according to the indictment, tended to range in value from $1,000 to $2,500. The indictment also mentions multiple vehicles, including a 1991 Chevy Silverado that was “secured” by Reader.
State Auditor Keith Faber released this statement following the grand jury indictment:
“This has been a long and intensive investigation with unfortunate and very serious results. It is our job to hold public officials accountable and root out fraud, waste, and abuse in our communities. We do not take these charges lightly and recognize that no one is above the law. While this is a major step toward seeking justice, our team is fully prepared to present these findings to a jury as this matter moves forward. I’d like to commend everyone who worked on this case for the immense amount of effort and detail that has been dedicated to the investigation," Faber said.
Reader did not respond to direct messages for comment Friday. When we called his office we were told he would not comment.
Later in the day, a spokesman released the following statement:
“Sheriff Reader and his staff have no comment on the events which were reported by the media earlier today, but would like to ensure the public that the office will continue to provide their normal law enforcement services to the public without interruption.”
Recently, Reader told FOX19 NOW he felt he had become a target because he is so popular with most of the residents he serves.
“I only want to serve the citizens as I was elected to do. I am by no means a politician, nor do I have a political agenda,” he wrote to us in May.
"Once elected, I serve all people equally and no one is exempt. Because of this, my work ethic, the multiple hours I decide to work, and doing my job with a heartfelt conviction that it is my calling, I have become a target due to being so popular with most of the citizens.
“The commissioners and the prosecutor despise the fact that the citizen support me and believe in me and my staff. It’s an absolute shame that this all started over power, Or the lack of.”
Reader will be arraigned in Pike County Common Pleas Court at 10 a.m. Tueday.
The Ohio State Supreme Court will appoint a judge to hear the case, according to the Pike County Clerk of Courts.
Pike County Prosecutor Rob Junk declined comment on the indictment Friday.
FOX19 NOW also reached out to Ohio Governor Mike DeWine.
He declined comment on Reader’s indictment and also declined to comment about whether he thinks this will have an impact on the prosecution of the Wagners in the Rhoden family massacre case.
However, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost declared it would not.
“This will have no impact on the Wagner capital murder cases, as Sheriff Reader was not the primary witness for any issue of fact or law. Ohio sheriffs act with integrity and honor, and this rare occurrence does not reflect the excellent work they do daily throughout their counties,” Yost said in a brief news release Friday after we contacted his office for comment.
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Sheriff Reader may be under criminal indictment, but he will remain one of the county’s top law enforcement officials, at least for now.
He was appointed to the job in May 2015 amid an investigation into an officer-involved fatal shooting and was elected as Democrat later that year by 76 percent of the vote.
Removing the accused law enforcement official will not be immediate, but there is a process in place under state law.
When a local elected official in Ohio is charged with a felony and it's related to their administration of or conduct in the performance of his or her duties of office, prosecutors are required by law to file a notice of the indictment with the Ohio Supreme Court to begin suspension proceedings, state law shows.
Not sooner than fourteen days after the chief justice receives the request, he or she is to establish the special commission, according to Anne Yeager, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Supreme Court.
The process was most recently followed when the mayor of Put-in-Bay was indicted on public corruption charges last fall.
Bernard McCann, 82 faced two felony counts of having an unlawful interest in a public contract and four counts of conflict of interest, misdemeanors.
The Ohio State Attorney General’s Office filed a motion with the Ohio Supreme Court asking that a special commission consider suspending him.
The Supreme Court appointed a special commission of three retired judges.
According to state law, at least one member of the panel has to be of the same party as the public official and all members are compensated for their services and reimbursed for expenses.
The staff attorney for the Office of Chief Legal Counsel at the Ohio Supreme Court serves as the secretary to the special commission and has authority to contact them, schedule hearings, and sign orders on behalf of and at the direction of the special commission.
Last month, Reader told FOX19 NOW in a statement he didn’t intend to anywhere anytime soon after Junk asked him in a letter to recuse himself from criminal cases due to the ongoing investigation by the auditor’s office and to supply a list of all deputy sheriffs who have been disciplined for any offense remotely reflective of untruthfulness, whether at the Pike County Sheriff’s Office or any other law enforcement agency.
“I will continue doing my job as the Sheriff for the citizens of Pike County, without exception," he wrote us on May 30. "I have an excellent staff and always have assistance from any other agency when I request them. I am the administrator of the Sheriffs Office and an elected official by the great people of Pike County.
"I have not personally investigated any criminal case since being the Sheriff, although I do work countless hours with my staff guiding and directing and being the Chief Law Enforcement Officer of this county. In the four years that I have been Sheriff, I have not once been called to the stand in any criminal investigation as a witness.
“There is a misconception and communication as to being an elected official and other elected officials, regardless of their elected position can attempt to control or run another county agency of that particular elected official,” his statement continued.
"I lead my staff and I’m very available to my citizens. I have no intention of providing anything less than the best law enforcement available in Pike County, always have. As far as conducting criminal investigations, I assign them to particular deputies or investigators, I do not personally complete them myself. I will take a stand when it comes to anyone attempting to hamper or delay the performance of my public officials duties which, in fact, is a criminal act.”