Note: This story appears in the Tuesday, July 2 newspaper on Page A3.
WAVERLY — A Pike County grand jury has indicted Sheriff Charles Reader on more than a dozen criminal charges involving allegations of theft and conflict of interest.
He also faces charges of tampering with evidence, tampering with records and securing writings by deception.
State Auditor Keith Faber said the indictment follows “a long and intensive investigation with unfortunate and very serious results.”
A statement from the Pike County Sheriff’s Office was issued Friday after the indictment was made public: “Sheriff Reader and his staff have no comment on the events which were reported by the media earlier today, but would like to ensure the public that the office will continue to provide their normal law enforcement services to the public without interruption.”
The charges allege that Reader used the power of his office to secure two vehicles, a 1991 Chevrolet Silverado and a 2013 Nissan Versa — leading to the conflict of interest and securing writings by deception allegations (the latter in regards to the Versa’s title.) These actions allegedly took place in the latter months of 2017.
He also received conflict of interest charges related to him allegedly requesting and/or accepting loans from a sheriff’s office employee and a vendor of Pike County government.
The Ohio Auditor’s Office opened an investigation into Reader’s conduct as sheriff in December 2018. This came about from an anonymous complaint submitted to the auditor’s office.
The Ohio Auditor’s Special Investigations Unit took a lead role in the case, according to the auditor’s office.
Reader is accused of tampering with evidence and tampering with records shortly after the investigation began.
In sum, Reader faces 16 charges:
- Tampering with evidence, a 3rd-degree felony
- Tampering with records, a 3rd-degree felony
- Three counts of theft in office, all 4th-degree felonies
- Theft, a 5th-degree felony
- Theft in office, a 5th-degree felony
- Securing writings by deception, a 5th-degree felony
- Theft, a 1st-degree misdemeanor
- Seven counts of conflict of interest, all 1st-degree misdemeanors
“It is our job to hold public officials accountable and root out fraud, waste, and abuse in our communities,” Auditor Faber said. “We do not take these charges lightly and recognize that no one is above the law. While this is a major step toward seeking justice, our team is fully prepared to present these findings to a jury as this matter moves forward. I’d like to commend everyone who worked on this case for the immense amount of effort and detail that has been dedicated to the investigation.”
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said the charges against Reader will have “no impact” on the ongoing prosecution in Pike County related to the high profile murders of eight members of the Rhoden and Gilley families.
“This will have no impact on the Wagner capital murder cases, as Sheriff Reader was not the primary witness for any issue of fact or law,” Yost said in a statement. “Ohio sheriffs act with integrity and honor, and this rare occurrence does not reflect the excellent work they do daily throughout their counties.”
Other news outlets reported Monday that Yost has called for Reader to step down as sheriff.
Reader’s attorney, James Boulger, had no comment when reached Friday by the Pike County News-Watchman.
Reader is scheduled to appear in Pike County Court of Common Pleas on Tuesday for arraignment. According to online court records, Judge Randy Deering has recused himself from presiding as judge over the proceedings, citing the fact that Reader is the elected sheriff and that the sheriff’s office has frequent contact with him as judge.
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Matt Lucas is the managing editor of The Pike County News-Watchman.