Three former officials of the Columbus Zoo in Ohio have been indicted on charges of stealing nearly $2.3 million over a span of ten years. The grand jury in Delaware County released a 90-count indictment against former CEO Tom Stalf, ex-chief financial officer Greg Bell, and former director of marketing Pete Fingerhut.
According to Ohio State Auditor Keith Faber, the charges include 89 felony counts and one misdemeanor. The indictment alleges that Stalf and Bell used zoo funds for personal expenses, such as attending sporting events, letting their family members live in zoo-owned houses, awarding a no-bid contract for construction at The Wilds, and making other unauthorized purchases.
Former CEO Tom Stalf and ex-marketing director Pete Fingerhut are facing charges of 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. Former CFO Greg Bell is charged with conspiracy to engage in a pattern of corrupt activity, aggravated theft, and tampering with records.
The indictment comes after a 2021 investigation conducted by law firm Porter Wright, which exposed the alleged misuse of zoo funds. It is worth mentioning that the indicted individuals are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
This indictment raises concerns about the misuse of funds in non-profit organizations and the need for proper financial oversight. The Columbus Zoo is a popular attraction, and it is important for the public to have confidence in its management and financial integrity. Measures should be taken to prevent such incidents in the future, ensuring transparency and accountability.