UPPER SANDUSKY, Ohio — An 18-year-old who duped Mohawk Local Schools officials, the Wyandot County sheriff, and a car dealership’s general manager into thinking he was a newly appointed state senator said he did it to prove a point about school security.
“These country schools think it can’t happen to them,” said Izaha Akins of Marion. He said he planned to write a paper about it.
Mr. Akins rendered Wyandot County red-faced after he was allowed to speak to a high school American Government class while using his own name and claiming to have been appointed to replace state Sen. David Burke (R., Marysville), who, he told officials, had resigned because of illness.
Authorities said Mr. Akins got a tour of the school and addressed the class at Mohawk High School in Sycamore on Dec. 15.
Mohawk Schools Superintendent Ken Ratliff said the young man fooled the teacher, the principal, and apparently everyone else he came in contact with that day.
The fraud only came to light when Senator Burke showed up as scheduled Jan. 14, Mr. Ratliff said. He said they kept the investigation quiet.
Mr. Akins is charged with one count each of impersonating a peace officer and telecommunications fraud, both felonies.
Mr. Akins told The Blade concerns about school security tend to focus on “urban schools,” and that he was concerned about “the small community effect — they think that this can never happen to us.”
“I was duping to prove a point, that these kinds of things can happen. They could easily have Googled me and they didn’t,” Mr. Akins said.
Mr. Akins ended the conversation after explaining his motivation.
Mr. Ratliff said Mr. Akins is believed to have attended Mohawk schools around grades kindergarten through second, and has cousins in the school.
“The presentation was about being active in politics, political processes. Everyone thought it was legit, bought into it, including the teacher,” Mr. Ratliff said.
He said Mr. Akins somehow found out that Senator Burke had an upcoming speaking engagement, and then called the teacher, Henry Stobbs, to announce that Mr. Burke was ill and had resigned and that he had been appointed to his position.
Mr. Ratliff said Mr. Stobbs is “very sharp,” and a veteran teacher, who initially wondered why he hadn’t read in the newspaper about Senator Burke’s illness but was convinced by the caller.
He said the chagrined teacher dropped his skepticism after Mr. Akins said that he was second in line for the appointment after the first choice had declined. He told the teacher he was the youngest state senator ever.
“Mr. Stobbs said that nothing he heard there made him think this guy didn’t know what he was doing,” Mr. Ratliff said about the class presentation.
In his call, he said he wanted to move the visit up to Dec. 15. A person claiming to be his aide called Wyandot County Sheriff Mike Hetzel to request an escort to the high school. The sheriff agreed to do so, setting an appointment for him to come to the sheriff’s office, but it turned out to be several days after Mr. Akins’ actual visit.
Additionally, someone called Reineke Ford in Tiffin to request a car for the day and a driver, which was provided.
Mr. Akins, the driver, and two “aides” showed up at the school about 1 p.m. He presented his own driver’s license, got a tour of the school from the principal, gave his presentation at the high school, and then left for the day, Mr. Ratliff said.
Tony Flood, the general manager of Reineke Motors in Upper Sandusky, said it was not unusual for the dealership to be helpful to the school district only 10 minutes away and so the request was not out of the ordinary. He said he called the school, and the expected appearance was verified.
Mr. Burke, a pharmacist, was not available for comment Friday afternoon, according to an aide. In a statement released by his office, he said, “This was an extremely elaborate scheme and not a simple as walking through the door. When I learned about this, the school and I immediately began working with law enforcement.”
Sheriff Hetzel said that no one in the school was in any danger, and he noted that a sheriff’s deputy happened to be in the school at the same time.
The incident has prompted the superintendent to order more stringent security, by requiring a phone call to the sponsoring agency of any visitors to verify their identity, Mr. Ratliff said.