Former Ohio official steals public funds to purchase snow owls, wildebeest, sno-cone machine, popcorn cart and more
A former Ohio official was sentenced to nearly 4 years and 11 months in prison earlier this year after stealing nearly $300,000 in public funds that were used to buy a lineup of exotic animals, snack machines and more.
Cyril S. Vierstra (who legally changed his name to “CY” in 2017) formerly served as a fiscal officer for Vinton Township, and was sentenced in early February after being convicted of misusing $287,000 in public funds to cover the expenses of a roadside zoo he operated in the area.
According to investigation details that were released by the Ohio Auditor of State yesterday, Viestra purchased items such as snow owls from England, a wildebeest, a popcorn cart, a sno-cone machine and much more.
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Portions of the money were used to fund a non-profit wildlife refuge known as Union Ridge Wildlife Center that he operated. Other items, like a telescope, hot tub, drone, telescope and more were also purchased by the former Vinton Township official.
Viestra used township credit and debit cards between January of 2016 and July of 2020, later creating fake invoices, billing slips, and other fraudulent records in an attempt to cover the thefts.
“This was an abuse of the public trust at its worst,” Auditor of State Keith Faber said in a press release. “Public funds that were supposed to be used for roads and bridges and needed services instead were stolen to buy kayaks, a popcorn cart, a swimming pool, a drum set, gazebos – the list goes on and on.”
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