Ex-auditor’s office employee gets 7 years in prison in theft of $1.8 million

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

A former employee of the Clark County Auditor’s Office on Thursday was sentenced to seven years in prison and was ordered to pay restitution for the theft of more than $1.8 million in county money.

Robert Vanderhorst appeared in Clark County Common Pleas Court for his sentencing by Judge Douglas Rastatter.

“He was in a position of trust, he had a great amount of control in the auditor’s office,” Rastatter said. “The court finds it calculated, premeditated, enduring.”

Vanderhorst entered a guilty plea to felony counts of theft and theft in office last month. As part of a plea agreement, Vanderhorst must make restitution of $1.8 million, according to the state auditor’s office.

Rastatter also ruled the Vanderhorst would forfeit his monthly OPERS checks – more than $4,000 each – back to the county and also forfeit deferred compensation to the state, which could total more than $150,000.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

An employee of the Clark County Auditor’s Office since 1991, Vanderhorst was fired Jan. 12 after the Clark County Auditor’s Office said it learned of the allegations.

The thefts occurred from 2005 to 2021, according to the state auditor’s office.

Clark County Prosecutor Dan Driscoll launched an investigation after receiving a tip about a suspicious vendor account that received county payments but had no address, no tax identification number, and no description of work being performed, according to a release from the state auditor’s office.

Driscoll said many of the charges made by Vanderhorst were found to be for purchases related to restaurants or shopping.

Vanderhorst also regularly donated the funds to a parish and charitable organizations like Toys for Tots, the investigation found.

“We’re in an age where government is distrusted by people,” Driscoll said. “These decisions further injure that faith.”

There was no evidence that Vanderhorst was addicted to gambling or drugs, a common trend among theft in large amounts, Driscoll said.

John Rion, Vanderhorst’s attorney, said his client cooperated with investigators throughout the entirety of the investigation.

“I think this is a case where the first mistake led to the second, led to the third,” Rion said. “His reaction has been everything he can do to make it better.”

Driscoll confirmed an initial $110,000 payment to the suspicious vendor ultimately was deposited into a bank account maintained by Vanderhorst. With assistance from the Auditor of State’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the investigation confirmed that Vanderhorst opened a “phony” vendor bank account, deposited county checks into it, and then transferred those balances into a personal bank account or withdrew cash for his own use, according to the state auditor’s office.

Clark County Auditor John Federer said that Vanderhorst’s theft represents a “shocking betrayal of every Clark County citizen” and employees of his office.

“I’m pleased to see justice served for this office and the residents of Clark County. A betrayal of the public trust on this magnitude is frustrating and difficult to digest, but I believe that our office responded well and that we have emerged with stronger operations than ever before,” Federer said.

According to the county auditor’s office, an employee noticed inappropriate vendor payouts in the financial management system in October 2021. State investigators visited the auditor’s office and Vanderhorst’s home in January to collect evidence.

“This is one of the largest thefts committed by a public employee in our state and an egregious crime against the people of Clark County,” Ohio Auditor Keith Faber said in a statement.

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