Former church treasurer faces embezzlement charges

| November 6, 2009

A Hillsboro man was indicted by a Highland County grand jury Tuesday on charges of theft and tampering with records after he allegedly embezzled more than $200,000 from an area church.

Dennis L. Butler, 68, was indicted on one count of theft, a third-degree felony, and one count of tampering with records, a third-degree felony.

According to the Highland County Sheriff’s Office, the indictment was the result of an ongoing investigation by detectives with the HCSO into allegations that Butler was embezzling money from a Concord Township church where he had been serving as treasurer for a number of years.

Sheriff Ron Ward said that the investigation was initiated by the HCSO in August after the church board approached the sheriff’s office with concerns over church accounts.

“There were some irregularities on the church accounts that caused concern among board members,” Ward said. “We initiated an investigation in August, and audits of the records showed a misappropriation of church funds that goes back many years.”

The sheriff’s office said the charges were the result of Butler using church money for personal gain or use, as well as creating fictitious accounting records. The funds in question total more than $202,000, and involve a period of more than five years.

During the time period of the theft, Butler was working as a local insurance and investment agent, the sheriff’s office said. Part of the theft case involved misappropriation of funds from annuities owned by the church that Butler managed as an investment adviser.

Ward said that while the church board came forward with the concerns, it was the sheriff’s office that pursued the investigation.

“They came to us with concerns. Once we find that a crime has been committed, we’re ethically required to move forward and charge those involved,” he said. “I feel pretty strongly that in a church environment, it’s a bad situation to prosecute one of your elders. That is not an easy decision. But the board members did the right thing.”

Butler, who is a current member of the Hillsboro Planning Commission, current officer on the Highland County Republican Central Committee, has been president of the Highland County Board of MRDD and was presented the Distinguished Service Award from the Ohio MRDD in October 2008, turned himself in to the sheriff’s office Wednesday and was arraigned in Highland County Common Pleas Court via video arraignment, where bond was set at $10,000.

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Category: Church Security

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