State investigators honored after conviction in $1.8 million theft by Clark County employee

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Former Clark County deputy auditor Robert Vanderhorst was sentenced to seven years in prison for the theft.

An investigative unit at the State Auditor’s Office received national recognition for its investigation of a Clark County Auditor’s Office deputy auditor who stole $1.8 million over about 15 years.

The work by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) found that Robert Vanderhorst took around $1.8 million of public money from 2005 to 2021. The stolen funds paid for out-of-state trips, vehicles, home expenses and more.

Vanderhorst was convicted of aggravated theft and theft in office, then sentenced in September to seven years in prison and ordered to pay $1.87 million in restitution — to pay back the stolen funds and court costs.

According to the Monday release about the award, the SIU is one of four offices in the country receiving an Excellence in Accountability award from the National State Auditors Association. The NSAA presents the four awards annually for “innovation and distinction in protecting public resources.”

“SIU is working hard every day to find those who lie, cheat and steal from the public coffers,” Ohio Auditor of State Keith Faber said in a release.

According to a special audit, transactions from 2012-2022 indicated Vanderhorst paid for more than 30 trips, including multiple times to Florida and Tennessee. More than $5,000 of the stolen funds went to a cruise company.

An employee of the Clark County Auditor’s Office since 1991, Vanderhorst was fired on Jan. 12, 2022, after the Clark County Auditor’s Office said it learned of the allegations.

“They’re dedicated to promoting transparency and accountability in the use of public funds and exposing fraud and corruption wherever it exists,” Faber said of the investigators. “People across the country are taking notice of their good work. This award is well deserved.”

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 confirmed an initial $110,000 payment to the suspicious vendor ultimately was deposited into a bank account maintained by Vanderhorst. With assistance from the SIU, the investigation confirmed that Vanderhorst opened a “phony” vendor bank account, deposited county checks into it, then transferred those balances into a personal bank account or withdrew cash for his own use.

Clark County Common Pleas Judge Douglas M. Rastatter ordered Vanderhorst to forfeit personal bank account balances, a 2019 Mazda, all monies in his deferred compensation accounts and his $4,294 monthly Ohio Public Employees Retirement System distribution.

According to the release, the SIU has helped in 108 convictions leading to more than $5 million in restitution since 2019. The Auditor of State’s Office audits more than 5,900 state and local governmental agencies.

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