by Andrew Emett
May 17, 2016
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Under investigation for allegedly taking money from a charity program designed to help disadvantaged families, a Richfield police officer was charged this week for stealing over $26,000 from generous donors and impoverished children. After supervising the department’s “Shop With a Cop” program for several years, the officer initially came under investigation when his police chief began noticing discrepancies in the budget earlier this year.
On January 25, Richfield Police Chief Keith Morgan wrote a letter informing the state’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) of potential “discrepancies in the Shop With a Cop financial accounts.” Morgan added, “There are two signers on the Shop With a Cop bank account, both are members of the Richfield Police Department.”
Richfield Police Officer Michael Simmons and a fellow officer were immediately placed on paid administrative leave pending the BCI’s investigation into Morgan’s allegations of theft from the charity program. Although the other officer was eventually cleared of wrongdoing, Simmons has recently been charged with stealing $26,709 from the department’s Shop With a Cop program since 2010.
“The ‘Shop with a Cop’ program helps kids bond with and trust police, but this defendant violated that trust on so many different levels,” Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said in a news release on Monday. “Our investigation found that, for years, this officer not only deceived those who generously donated to this charity, but he also stole from the children whom this program was created to help. Many more kids could have benefited from this charity had this defendant not spent thousands of dollars in donations on himself.”
As the coordinator of the program, Simmons was responsible for assigning officers to take financially disadvantaged families on a shopping spree each Christmas. But according to the Attorney General’s Office, Simmons, a 17-year veteran with the department, allegedly stole money from the budget to purchase sporting event tickets, electronics, clothing, gift cards, and tools for personal use instead.
Currently placed on unpaid leave, Simmons faces a third-degree felony charge after a warrant was issued for his arrest on Monday. If found guilty, Simmons will be responsible for stealing more than $26,000 from compassionate donors while misappropriating the funds away from impoverished children.
Instead of rebuilding trust between police and the community, Simmons has reportedly caused irreparable harm for his own personal gain. Despite the fact that Simmons has been accused of stealing from the charity fund since 2010, Chief Morgan only began noticing discrepancies in the Shop With a Cop budget earlier this year.