SIDNEY — A Shelby County grand jury has indicted two officials with the Shelby County Humane Society on alleged theft charges that included using the organization’s funds to pay for personal items.
In a news release issued on Thursday, Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart announced the indictments against Mike Lescowitch, president of the Shelby County Humane Society, and Angela Bray, treasurer for the organization. Lescowitch was indicted on one count of theft in office, a fourth-degree felony, and Bray faces one count of theft, a fifth-degree felony.
The three-month investigation was sparked after the sheriff’s office received several complaints approximately four to five months ago regarding possible misuse of funds at the humane society. Lenhart called the investigation “exhaustive.”
“I would like to thank the citizens who called in and reported their concerns,” Lenhart said in a news release. “This investigation was exhaustive and time consuming, and I would like to commend the investigators for their dedication and thoroughness on this investigation.”
Lenhart noted the humane society, which operated as a 501c3, failed to file the necessary paperwork to continue that status for the last three years. However, personal purchases were allegedly made using the humane society’s 501c3 status to avoid paying sales taxes.
“These purchases they made were not for the humane society and were for their own personal gain,” Lenhart said in the news release. “The investigation revealed that humane society funds were used for the towing of Bray’s personal wave runners, tires for her personal vehicle, personal cell phone bills, Wii games and various other purchases that were not for the humane society.”
Wal-Mart gift cards were purchased, which were then allegedly used to purchase groceries, cigarettes and other personal items. Lenhart also noted there were alleged instances of misuse of the society’s credit cards.
“The humane society’s recordkeeping was almost nonexistent and willfully negligent,” Lenhart said in the news release. “There was cash spent without any explanation of what the money was used for or spent on. During the course of the investigation, investigators found that donations were made to the humane society without those funds being reported, recorded or deposited into a humane society account.”
The investigation revealed an estimated $18,485.92 was allegedly misappropriated. The humane society’s 501c3 status has been turned over to the Internal Revenue Serivce for further investigation. Lenhart said he believed $649.46 in state sales tax was not paid on purchases associated with the humane society. The humane society’s funds — $19,107 — have been frozen per an order out of Shelby County Common Pleas Court.
Calls placed to the Shelby County Humane Society went unanswered on Thursday.
Lenhart told The Evening Leader the scope of the investigation dated back to 2009. Investigators conducted an audit on the humane society’s records in the years since its 501c3 status expired.
“It was a historical case following the paper trail or lack there of,” Lenhart said in a telephone interview. “Their bookkeeping was atrocious.”
The investigation into the matter is ongoing.
“The number could be as high as $27,000,” Lenhart said. “We are not done with this. We have other subpoenas out on things they purchased in retail stores.”
If convicted, Lescowitch faces a maximum of 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine and Bray faces a maximum of 12 months in prison and a $2,500 fine. A sentencing judge also could order the pair to pay any restitution associated with the case.