MIAMI COUNTY — On Thursday, former executive director of the nonprofit Isaiah’s Place, Kelley Gunter, was sentenced to serve five years of community control for third-degree aggravated theft from the foster care agency.
Miami County Common Pleas Court Judge Stacy Wall also ordered Gunter to abide by several special conditions of community control. If she fails to complete the conditions of her parole, Wall reserved two years in prison.
Prior to sentencing, Wall told Gunter, “You absolutely knew what you were doing was wrong.”
Wall said Gunter manipulated her staff, which included her brother Matthew who served as the financial officer for the organization. Wall noted Gunter’s salary at the beginning of her service at the foster agency was $72,000 per year and eventually leaped to $200,000 with a car allowance, unlimited vacation, healthcare and raises, starting in 2009. The organization paid off personal loans and she had several lines of credit at various banks opened unbeknownst to the board.
“You took complete advantage of that organization,” said Wall, noting several letters written in support of Gunter and found Gunter’s conduct was the complete opposite of the characteristics supporters highlighted to the court on her behalf.
Wall also noted Gunter’s education, which included a master’s degree and several certifications in ethics. Wall said Gunter made a statement to the pre-sentence investigation writer that she used a “payroll advance” at the casinos and conducted herself in unethical manners for several years.
“It’s not free money,” Wall said. “It’s very clear you spent the money as if it was your own.”
Wall noted Gunter’s expenses ranged from high-end restaurants, home improvement projects, pool maintenance, hair appointments and others. Wall said the court was well aware that the bill from the Coyote Ugly Saloon in Nashville was unrelated to the non-profit organization she once was in charge of.
Gunter is to pay Isaiah’s Place $110,000 in restitution by making $1,833.33 monthly payments for five years. She also was ordered to complete 40 hours of community service, not to hold a financial position to which she could access large amounts of funds, provide the court quarterly mental health reports from her doctor based in Arizona and complete a mental health assessment. Wall also ordered her to attend Gamblers Anonymous once a month to not engage in any gambling activity, including casino, race tracks and online venues.
Prior to sentencing, Gunter’s attorney Jeffrey Slyman said Gunter has filed for bankruptcy and was aware that restitution would still be Gunter’s responsibility.
Speaking on her own behalf, Gunter tearfully paused prior to addressing the court.
“Your honor, I’m so sorry to all the people I’ve hurt,” she said. She said she “loved all the people I worked with” and “I let all of them down.”
“I can’t go back and change my mistakes,” she said. “The community was hurt by my mistakes and my poor judgment … I’m deeply, deeply sorry.”
Miami County Assistant Prosecutor Paul Watkins requested the court honor the joint plea agreement of five years of community control.
A restitution hearing was held on Sept. 18. During the hearing, Gunter, and her defense attorney Jeffrey Slyman and Miami County Prosecutor Paul Watkins, came to an agreement of $110,000 of restitution was owed to the foster care agency. At the hearing, Slyman said Gunter has paid back $41,300 to the agency to date.
The case began when Kelley Gunter’s brother Matthew Gunter, the former chief financial officer of the foster care nonprofit, reported the misappropriation of funds in November 2016 because the agency was about to be audited.
The Troy Police Department executed a search warrant to retrieve financial records on Nov. 23, 2016. Financial records were reviewed by the Bureau of Criminal Investigation. Detective Chris Baker confirmed line items of bank statements and Ohio Bureau of Investigation forensic accounts for nearly two hours before an agreement was reached.
According to Baker, forensic accounting showed Kelley Gunter spent $126,445 at casinos, $31,500 in cash withdraws, $8,533 to a local contractor for home repairs and remodeling, $5,816 at Rendezvous Hair Salon in Columbus, $3,163 at Hanson Audio, $2,865 at Menards, $1,013 at Sundown Tanning, $968 for pool supplies and $876 for pet supplies. The bank statements began in November 2015 before the hearing ended at the month of September 2016’s expenses.
Financial records disclosed that she traveled to casinos in Cincinnati, Columbus, Lawrenceburg, Ind., and MGM Casino in Detroit, Mich.
Matthew Gunter, 58, of Troy, was sentenced to serve five years of community control and ordered to pay back $34,912 to the agency on Aug. 28. Judge Wall sentenced him to serve five years on community control for third-degree felony aggravated theft. Matthew Gunter reported the theft in office to attorney Bob Huffman in 2016. Gunter then cooperated with Troy Police Department detectives who conducted a search warrant at the foster agency’s office.
Isaiah’s Place has since replaced its board and is under a new executive director. According to its website, the agency currently serves 80 children from 15 counties.
Reach Melanie Yingst at firstname.lastname@example.org
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