Complaint acuses Pike County’s Reader of stealing confiscated drug money

By Tom Corrigan - [email protected]

Despite saying they would have no comment on an ongoing investigation, the state auditor’s office late yesterday evening released further information on its inquiry into allegedly improper activities by Pike County Sheriff Charlie Reader.

The information apparently was released as a result of a public information request filed by another media outlet. The information was released to this newspaper as we had contacted the auditor’s office previously regarding its investigation of Reader.

According to the paperwork released to the media, on Nov. 9, the auditor’s office received an anonymous complaint regarding supposed improper actions by Reader.

The complaint alleges Reader “keeps the cash confiscated on drug cases in a small safe in his office that only he has access to. We believe he is taking money from the safe and using it for personal use.”

The complaint goes on to describe Reader as a compulsive gambler who never has any money of his own. It charges him with borrowing several thousand dollars from investigators connected with the sheriff’s department. The complainant or complainants also allege Reader owes a local car dealer over $20,000 and further claims he has taken impounded cars off the police lot for use by his daughter.

“Reader just does whatever he wants, and no one ever calls him on it,” the complaint reads in part.

“We are scared to death of him. He is unstable and threatens people,” it concludes.

In an email, an auditor press secretary reiterated despite having released the complaint information, it is against policy within the auditor’s office to comment regarding ongoing investigations.

According to the auditor’s website, the office receives hundreds of complaints annually regarding fraud in government or by public employees. Those tips can come from public employees, concerned citizens or auditors who discover something suspicious in the course of their work.

Something called the Special Audit Task Force, a group of auditors and investigators led by the state auditor evaluates tips and complaints received by the auditor’s office. If the task force decides the case falls under the authority of the auditor of state’s office and may involve probable fraud or theft, the complaint is then sent to the Special Audit Section and the Special Investigations Unit for further review

“The Special Investigations Unit works to aggressively root out fraud and public corruption,” according to the auditor’s website. “Investigators gather information that is not readily available during (a) special audit, which may include bank statements or credit card records that must be obtained through a subpoena. Additionally, SIU investigators may conduct interviews to identify persons responsible for the loss of public funds.”

The auditor’s website states Ohio law mandates a public log of fraud reports be made available through the Ohio Fraud Report System, which includes the date of the report, the entity complained of, the nature of the complaint and the status of the review the complaint. A link to the log contained on the auditor’s website states that electronic log is being updated and is currently unavailable. The auditor’s office was to supply an emailed copy of the log, but it did not arrive by deadline for this issue.

As has been previously reported, Pike County Court of Common Pleas Judge Randy Deering on Dec. 13 approved the appointment of a special prosecutor from the auditor’s office to oversee an investigation into Reader’s alleged behavior. The special prosecutor was appointed at the request of Pike County Prosecutor Rob Junk.

In his formal request for appointment of a special prosecutor, Junk first notes he has frequent contact with the county sheriff. His request, which was filed the same day it was granted by Deering, reads in part as follows: “It has been brought to my attention that there have been allegations of misconduct in office on the part of the Pike County Sheriff. Due to the working relationship and my status as legal counsel for the Office of the Sheriff, I am requesting the special prosecutor be appointed in this matter.”

Reader has not returned messages asking for comment on any investigation into his alleged actions.

Reader, Junk and even Deering have been much in the news recently as all three are involved in the ongoing prosecution of six members of the Wagner family in connection with the infamous massacre of six members of the Rhoden family in April 2016.

Reader has been involved with the investigation since the time the murders took place. Junk is, of course, serving as prosecutor in the case, while Deering has been the judge trying the various cases connected with the incident. Those cases are still all in their very early stages.

There is no public information at this point linking any investigation of Reader with the Rhoden case which is scheduled to be back in court Thursday. One of the four persons directly charged with the six murders, Jake Wagner is scheduled to appear before Deering in a pretrial hearing.

By Tom Corrigan

[email protected]