BOWLING GREEN — A former Perrysburg Schools employee was indicted Thursday on charges he wrote more than $80,000 in checks from the district’s account to the Bowling Green Bobcat Athletic Boosters.
Eric Whitson, 30, of Bowling Green was indicted by a Wood County grand jury on four counts of theft in office, a third-degree felony punishable by up to three years in prison, a $10,000 fine, and possible forfeiture of his state retirement funds.
Prosecutors allege that while employed in the treasurer’s office of Perrysburg Exempted Village Schools, Mr. Whitson wrote two checks on Feb. 28 from the Perrysburg Schools account — one for $42,150 and another for $37,935 — both made out to the boosters organization in Bowling Green.
Mr. Whitson had been the volunteer treasurer for the boosters club, a nonprofit organization that supports athletic programs at Bowling Green High School.
He is to be arraigned Aug. 18 by Wood County Common Pleas Judge Reeve Kelsey.
Mr. Whitson, who was employed by the Perrysburg district for 10 years, was fired by the school board at a special meeting July 14.
He is free on an $80,000 bond, which was set in Perrysburg Municipal Court after his July 2 arrest on two counts of theft.
The conditions of his bond include a ban on any contact with the Hollywood Casino or any other gambling facilities.
“There’s certainly some connection with Mr. Whitson and gambling,” Wood County Prosecutor Paul Dobson said. “Whether his reason for the alleged thefts was a gambling habit or not, I’m not at liberty to say.”
Mr. Whitson also was banned from contact with Perrysburg schools, the Bowling Green booster group, and the Northwest Ohio Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, a group with which Mr. Whitson also may have had some connection, Mr. Dobson said.
He said the investigation into the stolen funds is ongoing.
Mr. Dobson, who has handled numerous criminal cases involving theft by public and private employees as well as volunteers for nonprofit organizations, said gambling is not an unusual motive in such cases.
“In these situations you don’t often find the basis being drugs because these people are at least well-known and trusted enough to be put in a position of responsibility,” he said.
Others are in debt for other reasons and steal from an employer or a nonprofit in which they’re involved.
“They either have not controlled their finances or sometimes they justify themselves by saying, ‘I do so much work for this organization, I deserve more than the thanks I get once in a while,’” Mr. Dobson said. “It’s one of those crimes that thrives in a situation of trust, and these smaller nonprofits just can’t afford to have somebody audit their books on a regular basis.
“You combine that with the fact that they usually have a treasurer who deals with all the finances because other volunteers don’t want to, and that’s an environment that causes this kind of problem.”
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-213-2134.
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