Former Columbus Zoo Employees Indicted on Felony Charges for Misuse of Funds and Resources

Three former employees of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Ohio have been indicted on 89 felony charges following an investigation into allegations of fund and resource misuse, according to Ohio Attorney General Yost. The indicted individuals include the zoo’s former CEO Tom Stalf, former Director of Marketing Pete Fingerhut, and former Chief Financial Officer Greg Bell.

The charges against the former zoo executives include aggravated theft, engaging in a pattern of corrupt activities, telecommunication fraud, money laundering, tampering with records, bribery, conspiracy to engage in a pattern of corrupt activity, and extortion. The state auditor’s office believes that these former executives extorted, conspired, bribed, and stole over $2 million in public funds for personal gain.

Additional charges are expected to be brought against Bell in the ongoing case. The indictment outlines the breakdown of felony charges for each individual involved.

The investigation revealed that the former executives manipulated credit-card and check authorization forms over the span of more than a decade, using the nonprofit organization’s funds for personal use. One notable instance cited in the indictment involved the exchange of zoo tickets for tickets to Game 6 of the 2016 World Series. Additionally, Fingerhut allegedly threatened a vendor’s business opportunities with the zoo unless he received large sums of cash.

The allegations will be heard in court, and the Ohio Attorney General’s office is confident that the jury will find the former executives guilty of the charges.