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Bill would enforce tougher penalties on theft in office crimes

Special to the Legal News

Published: March 14, 2018

A Warren County lawmaker worked with state Auditor Dave Yost to come up with more stringent penalties for public employees convicted of theft in office.

Upon Senate Bill 268's introduction last week, Yost joined the bill's sponsor, Sen. Steve Wilson, R-Maineville, to tout the benefits of expanding such penalties.

"Theft in office is a severe crime that warrants an equally severe punishment," Yost said in a written statement.

SB 268 would establish first- and second-degree felony offense levels for theft in office charges to mirror the existing statute for the separate charge of theft.

Current law limits theft in office to a third-degree felony, carrying a sentence of between nine months and three years in prison.

Accordingly, a public official or employee convicted of stealing any amount over $150,000 - even millions, Yost said - faces the same penalties as someone who steals $7,500.

Under the proposal, a theft of between $150,000 and $750,000 would fall into a second-degree felony threshold punishable by two to eight years in prison. Any theft of more than $750,000 would merit a first-degree felony holding a sentence of three to 11 years in prison.

The bill also would address the costs local governments pay for forensic audits.

For the most part, Yost said, the law would prevent judges from ordering offenders to reimburse entities for the audit costs, which sometimes outweigh the losses from the theft itself.

Rep. Robert Cupp, R-Lima, is expected to introduce companion legislation in the Ohio House of Representatives, the press released noted.

"I thank Senator Wilson and Representative Cupp for joining me in this effort to address a glaring flaw in the statute."

SB 268 awaits referral to a Senate committee for hearing.

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