In 2021, former Columbus Zoo and Aquarium employees were investigated for allegedly mishandling and misusing funds and resources, according to Ohio Attorney General Yost.
On Monday, September 18th of 2023, the state auditor’s office released a statement that former CEO Tom Stalf, former Director of Marketing Pete Fingerhut, and Greg Bell, the former Chief Financial Officer, each face multiple felony counts, totaling 89 all together. Stalf is indicted on 36 felony charges, Fingerhut is indicted on 62, and Bell is indicted on 14. They were indicted at the Delaware County Common Pleas Court.
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“I’m confident that when the allegations are heard in the court of law, the jury will agree that these former executives of the Columbus Zoo extorted, conspired, bribed and stole over $2 million in public funds for their own benefits,” Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said in a news release. “In simple terms, the bank hired the robbers to work security.”
According to Yost, alleged charges include: credit-card and check manipulation for a decade, using stolen funds for personal uses, such as, “…lavish non-zoo related items, including suites and tickets to concerts and sporting events; golf memberships; trips to multiple states and foreign countries; meals, beverages and alcohol; and motor vehicles,” Yost’s news release said.
“We are disappointed to learn of the alleged criminal conspiracy orchestrated by former zoo employees, but we are confident those involved will be held accountable,” said Mayor Ginther and Council President Hardin in a joint statement.
“The announcement of the Ohio Attorney General’s conclusion of an investigation and the Grand Jury’s indictment closes a chapter on the challenges the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium faced in 2021 leading to the removal of former staff and thorough examination and restructuring under new leadership,” said the Columbus Zoo in a media release.
The Columbus Zoo emphasized, “The Zoo is grateful for the support and trust of the community and looks forward to the bright future knowing that its mission will continue to be the guiding light in all that it does.”
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