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Published: Tuesday, 5/9/2006

2 former officers guilty in fraud at water authority

NORWALK, Ohio - Two former employees of the Northern Ohio Rural Water District were convicted yesterday in Huron County Common Pleas Court of charges related to the illegal expenditure of more than $88,000 in public funds.

Anthony Quebodeaux, former general manager of the water district in Huron, pleaded guilty to 13 counts. James Ruggles, a former fiscal officer with the water district, pleaded guilty to one count of complicity to tampering with records.

Judge Earl McGimpsey convicted Quebodeaux of one count each of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, theft in office, complicity to tampering with records, tampering with records, and money laundering. He also pleaded guilty to four counts of theft, two counts of bribery, and two counts of improper compensation.

Quebodeaux, 57, of Sheffield Lake, Ohio, was secretly indicted in November and arrested in December. The county prosecutor sought help from the state auditor's office, which provided a special prosecutor who is an expert in white-collar crime, said Jen Detwiler, a spokesman for state Auditor Betty Montgomery.

Ruggles was responsible for tracking the water district's expenditures, and he submitted monthly reports to Quebodeaux, the prosecutor, James Manken, said.

Quebodeaux would then instruct Ruggles to remove certain expenditures relating to Quebodeaux's personal expenses. Ruggles presented false, altered reports to the water district's board, he said.

The county is seeking restitution of $88,614 from Quebodeaux, as well as expenses related to the probe. The indictment says Quebodeaux defrauded the authority of tens of thousands of dollars in cash and property between April 28, 1997, and April 30, 2005.

Authorities seized a variety of tools, firearms, and computer equipment, some of it from Quebodeaux's home and some from the water authority's offices. Items confiscated included hydraulic floor jacks, handguns, rifles, a generator, and a lawn mower.

The state has worked on the investigation with Huron County and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees water districts because they receive federal funding.

The water authority supplies over 6,700 homes and businesses in parts of Erie, Huron, Lorain, and Sandusky counties.

Sentencing for Quebodeaux is set for June 20 and for Ruggles on June 27.



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