Prosecutors seek delay in former Ohio Farmers Union treasurer sentencing

SALEM, Ohio — A second delay has been sought in the sentencing of the former treasurer of the Ohio Farmers Union after an audit showed more money was stolen than originally thought.

Guilty plea

Kathy Beutler, of Columbus Grove, Ohio, has pleaded guilty to a charge of aggravated theft, a third-degree felony. The theft occurred over a four-and-a-half year period between April 2005 and May 2009.

The case had originally been scheduled for sentencing Dec. 1, 2009 but it was delayed because of forensic audit into the finances of the Ohio Farmers Union.

A second sentencing date was set for Feb. 22 but that has also been rescheduled.

Additional losses

According to the court docket in Putnam County, the court found that the initial forensic audit of the Ohio Farmers Union business accounts has revealed additional losses. In addition, because of the audit, the Ohio Farmers Union now has reason to suspect additional monetary loss as a result of unauthorized criminal activity of Beutler.

The docket also states that an analysis of the forensic audit will assist the court in determining the extent of economic loss and the total amount of restitution that needs to be paid.

Beutler pleaded guilty to embezzling between $100,000 and $500,000 this past fall.

Beutler reportedly used the funds to pay on a number of credit card accounts.

According to Prosecutor Ken Egbert of the Ohio Attorney General’s office, she was using the money to pay overdue credit card bills, late payments and to pay down the cards with the highest interest rates but it “snowballed” on her.

A special prosecutor was appointed in the case because Beutler is the wife of Putnam County Sheriff James R. Beutler.

Egbert added bank records show large payments were made to the credit card companies.

Investigation

The investigation reportedly began when the Ohio Farmers Union started noticing funds missing and dwindling from the payroll account.

Beutler will be sentenced at 9:30 a.m. May 25 in a Putnam County courtroom on the third-degree felony charge. She could be receive up to five years in prison, but it is at the discretion of visiting Common Pleas Judge Keith P. Muehlfeld from Henry County.

The sentencing will ultimately be determined by the judge, but a pre-sentence investigation into Beutler will help him make his decision. Currently, Beutler remains free on her own recognizance with the condition that she not be involved with the Farmers Union except through her attorney in determining restitution amounts.

Money borrowed

The Ohio Farmers Union did borrow money from the National Farmers Union organization for operating expenses this fall.

About the Author

Kristy Foster Seachrist lives in Columbiana County raising sheep and horses. She earned her degree from Youngstown State University and has worked in both print and broadcast journalism. You can follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/fosterk96. More Stories by Kristy Foster Seachrist

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