AKRON — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced that a former Ohio police officer must repay thousands of dollars that he stole from the Richfield Police Department’s “Shop With a Cop” program.
Summit County Common Pleas Judge Alison McCarty sentenced former Richfield Police Officer Michael Simmons, 42, of Stow, to repay $15,000 that he stole from the program. Simmons, who also received an 18-month suspended sentence and two years of probation, pleaded guilty to a felony charge of grand theft in October.
Special agents with Attorney General DeWine’s Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) began investigating Simmons in January at the request of Richfield Police Chief Keith Morgan, after Morgan became aware of the unauthorized financial transactions.
BCI agents found that Simmons, who was the coordinator of the program that took children on a shopping trip with law enforcement each Christmas, improperly spent thousands of dollars in donations on personal expenses from 2010 to 2016. The improper spending included purchases of sporting event tickets, electronics, clothing, and tools. He also allegedly used gift cards purchased with program funds for his personal use.
“The holidays are about giving, not taking, and this defendant selfishly stole from the kids who the ‘Shop with a Cop’ program was designed to benefit,” said Attorney General DeWine. “I’m very happy that thousands of dollars will now be returned to the community where it can be put to good use to help those in need.”
According to the Richfield Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #66, the $15,000 will all be distributed to charities that benefit children in Summit County, as was originally intended when the money was collected. All additional funds that were left over in Richfield’s “Shop With a Cop” bank account will also be donated to five local charities to provide goods and services to kids. Those charities are: Toys for Tots, Ronald McDonald House, Battered Women’s Shelter of Summit and Medina Counties, WQMX Tree of Lights/Haven of Rest, and the Community Health Center Adolescent Program.
“Simmons’ despicable behavior has added to an ever-increasing distrust and displeasure between the public and law enforcement. When we should be attempting to mend relations, his activities helped to further drive the wedge,” said Chief Morgan. “The fine members of the Richfield Police Department and specifically FOP Lodge #66, have vowed to reverse the effect of Simmons’ greed and to rebuild, however long it takes, the reputation of this law enforcement agency.”
As part of a plea agreement negotiated by Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh, Simmons must repay the entire $15,000 by March 15, 2017, or the suspended prison sentence will be imposed.
As a result of his conviction, Simmons’ peace officer certification was also permanently revoked.