Made public Tuesday by the Ohio Supreme Court, numerous documents involving the investigation and ultimate suspension of Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader provide previously unreleased details into his alleged misconduct in office.
Following an investigation by the office of State Auditor Keith Faber, in June a Pike County Grand Jury indicted Reader on a total of 16 felony and misdemeanor counts ranging from theft in office to tampering with evidence. The investigation followed a December request by Pike County Prosecutor Rob Junk for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate Reader’s alleged misconduct.
The special prosecutor, Robert F. Smith, appointed by the auditor’s office, is a 31-year veteran of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office and currently a member of the Ohio auditor’s special investigations unit.
According to a document prepared by Smith entitled “prosecutor case summary,” the state executed a search warrant for Reader’s office in early November. Reader was described as cooperative, telling investigators his wife was threatening to divorce him over his gambling problems. He told investigators he just visited El Dorado Scioto Downs outside of Columbus with his wife the previous Saturday.
Subsequently, investigators contacted officials at the casino, allegedly finding records indicating Reader lost $739 in one day in December 2017. Furthermore, a Scioto Downs supervisor provided annual reports for 2016-2018, allegedly detailing three to five visits to the casino by Reader each month.
According to the investigative summary, “Sheriff Reader’s loss amount has steadily increased over the last three years… more than doubling each year, as his losses were reported as $595.37 for 2016, $5,526.96 for 2017 and $11,033.54 for 2018.”
Junk initially acted after an anonymous complaint against Reader alleged the sheriff “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 also alleges Reader owes a local car dealer over $20,000 and further claims he took impounded cars off the police lot for use by his daughter.
When executing the November search warrant at Reader’s office, investigators stated they looked inside a small safe kept in the sheriff’s office as well as a larger safe maintained outside his office. According to investigators, all the items in the second safe appeared to be accounted for, accompanied by proper evidence sheets. That allegedly is not the case with the small safe in Reader’s office.
On December 14, Reader’s attorney James T. Boulger spoke with Smith, explaining Reader wanted to meet with auditor’s office investigators. According to the prosecutor, Boulger turned over, in Reader’s name, an accordion file containing several evidence envelopes with seized U.S. currency related to drug cases the attorney explained were still open. Boulger told investigators the money properly was in possession of the sheriff’s office. The file allegedly further contained two videos of cash counts of seized currency as well as a thumb drive with a video showing a cash count of drug buy monies from two different accounts.
“Mr. Boulger was asked why the contents of the accordion file were not secured or present in the sheriff’s safe, located under his desk, during the execution of the search warrant,” the prosecutor summary reads. “Mr. Boulger replied he wasn’t in a position to answer that question.”
According to the summary, neither Reader nor his attorney previously advised investigators anything was missing from the safe in the sheriff’s office. The summary claims the accordion file presented by Boulger contained 14 evidence bags containing money. Furthermore, the summary states at least one of the bags, containing just over $6,000 in confiscated cash, appeared to have been opened and resealed. The investigator claimed there is a video of Pike county deputies counting the money in question. Notably, the summary alleges the money in the bag presented by Reader’s attorney “was clearly different,” made up of different denominations and in different condition than the money in the video.
In speaking to investigators, one sheriff’s captain, after looking at the money presented by Boulger, told investigators it was not the same cash confiscated during the case.
According to the summary, the captain kept repeating “He stole the (expletive) money.” From the context, “he” was clearly Reader.
Sheriff’s officials initially confiscated the $6,000 in June of this year.
The investigative summary details numerous other allegations against the now suspended Reader, alleging at one point he instructed deputies all confiscated money was to be routed to him. One Pike official stated he was aware of only four instances in which Reader actually held money. However, the official also noted no paperwork on that money ever appeared. The amount involved was not given in the recently released summary.
The long summary goes on to allegedly detail several other instances of impropriety or possibly illegal activity by Reader, ranging from loans from employees and vendors the summary says represented conflicts of interest, to an alleged case of theft in office involving a 1991 Chevy Silverado that was to have been sold at a sheriff’s auction.
“The initial information indicated that Sheriff Reader wanted the vehicle for a family member,” the summary states.
Reader reportedly borrowed $350 to buy the car but never paid the money back. The summary alleges Reader knowingly had his father’s name placed on the title of the car, when in fact he had no legal authority to do so.
Some of the paperwork released yesterday details the process by which Faber’s office requested Reader’s suspension following his indictment. In accordance with Ohio law, the state Supreme Court appointed a three-judge panel to review the suspension request. It ultimately was approved. However, Faber’s office previously reported Reader voluntarily accepted the paid suspension in July prior to his formal suspension.
At his July arraignment, Reader pleaded not guilty to all counts. He was released on his own recognizance and is due back in court for a pretrial Sept. 25.
Reach Tom Corrigan at (740) 370-0715. © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.