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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)


The former deputy director of the Hilliard Recreation and Parks Department is accused of stealing more than $540,000 from the city's swimming pools and altering documents to cover up the thefts.

Heather H. Ernst, 47, was indicted Thursday by a Franklin County grand jury on one count each of theft and theft in office, two counts of tampering with records and four counts of filing incomplete or false tax returns.

Hilliard police announced in December that Ernst had been charged with stealing from the city but hadn't revealed the amount of missing money.

Ernst, a recreation and parks employee for more than 20 years, had been a deputy director since 2012 and was responsible for the city's two outdoor pools. She resigned Nov. 1 during the investigation, citing health reasons.

"This long and trusted employee abused her position for her own personal financial gain for over four years," Prosecutor Ron O'Brien said. According to the indictment, the thefts occurred between May 2013 and November 2017.

Ernst, of Schirtzinger Road in Hilliard, had "complete control of the money collected every day" at the Hilliard Family Aquatic Center and the Hilliard East Municipal Pool, O'Brien said.

Discrepancies were discovered between sales at the pools and the amount deposited in the city's bank account. "It is further alleged that Ernst manipulated documents turned into the city's finance department" so they matched the cash deposited at the bank, he said.

The investigation found that Ernst deposited into her personal bank account more than $270,000 that was not reported on her tax returns, O'Brien said.

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