Rep. David Joyce’s former campaign treasurer pleaded guilty on Thursday to grand theft charges stemming from accusations earlier this year that he embezzled more than $150,000 from the Ohio Republican’s campaign committee.
The ex-treasurer, former Highland Heights, Ohio, Mayor Scott Coleman, siphoned $160,000 from the “Friends of Dave Joyce” campaign account between 2015 and 2018, Geauga County prosecutor James Flaiz said.
Cleveland.com first reported this story.
“Scott unequivocally acknowledges that he committed this unfortunate act and he’s doing everything humanly possible to correct that wrong,” Coleman’s lawyer said in a statement on his client’s behalf. “Those who knew him best all agree this conduct is not reflective of his otherwise full life of deeds and support for others. He is very sorry for the harm this has caused family, friends and Congressman Joyce.”
Coleman faces a maximum 18-month prison sentence but is expected to get six to eight weeks.
As part of his plea, Coleman has agreed to pay full restitution to the Joyce campaign for the stolen funds and the costs of the investigation. He has already written checks for $340,000, Cleveland.com reported.
“The campaign is pleased that this unfortunate matter has been fully investigated and resolved by law enforcement and that Mr. Coleman will make complete restitution as part of this agreement,” Joyce’s campaign attorney, Megan Sowards Newton, told the News-Herald in a statement.
Joyce’s campaign told the Federal Election Commission in a letter earlier this year that an investigator from Geauga County confirmed bank camera film that showed Coleman withdrawing thousands of dollars that he was not authorized to tap from ATMs.
Joyce, who has represented Ohio’s 13th District since 2013, began having suspicions, according to the letter to the FEC, when Coleman repeatedly delayed handing over records to a new campaign treasurer. When he finally did, they did not include bank statements.
When the Geauga County prosecutor subpoenaed Coleman’s bank statements, the new campaign committee treasurer, Natalie Baur, noticed inconsistencies with Coleman’s reported campaign expenses and contribution amounts from donors.
Though the campaign books appeared balanced, it appeared Coleman had for years skimmed money off the top by overcharging for his expenses on FEC filings.
The Joyce campaign “immediately began a thorough audit of its records and worked with law enforcement and the Federal Election Commission” to correct its FEC records, Newton said Thursday.
The campaign filed updated records with the FEC on Thursday to reflect the accurate contribution and disbursement amounts, Newton said.