Former Ohio City Official Charged with Stealing $1.5 Million from Housing Authority

A former Athens city official is accused of stealing more than $1.5 million from the city and using it for personal expenditures.

Ohio Auditor Keith Faber said in a press release that law enforcement arrested Jodi Rickard, who was the executive director of the Athens Metropolitan Housing Authority (AMHA) at the time of the alleged embezzlement, on Monday.

Rickard became head of the housing authority in 2020 after serving 18 years with the agency, including some time as finance director. Its last released audit indicates the body oversaw more than $6 million in revenue to provide housing for low-income residents of Athens County.

The Athens County Grand Jury handed down a seven-count indictment against Rickard in Athens County Common Pleas Court. She faces two counts of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity and one count each of theft in office, aggravated theft, telecommunications fraud, tampering with evidence, and tampering with records, all of which are felony charges.

Following an anonymous tip, the Auditor of State’s Office and Special Investigations Unit (SIU) began an investigation against the housing authority after state auditors faced numerous delays in attempting to review AMHA’s financial records. According to Faber, search warrants were executed at agency facilities in December 2022. SIU worked with agents from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Inspector General and the Athens County Prosecutor’s Office.

In the period from January 2015 and December 2022, Rickard allegedly stole funds from agency accounts and utilized them for personal expenses. The indictment also contains a forfeiture specification of real property due to Rickard using AMHA funds to pay off her mortgage.

The prosecutor’s office claims that among the expenses made by Rickard were payments for her own benefit to Discover (72 checks totaling $1,286,659), Capital One (28 checks totaling $261,708), and WesBanco (one check totaling $34,000 used to settle her mortgage).

In December 2022, Rickard wrote another check to Discover for $16,000, but authorities halted the payment before it had cleared.

In addition to paying off her mortgage, the prosecutor’s office reported that Rickard took vacations, installed an in-ground pool, and made various additional purchases with money belonging to AMHA.

“Rickard is accused of violating the public trust to live an extravagant lifestyle from funds designated to helping people with the basic necessity of housing. If convicted, she will face mandatory prison time,” Athens County Prosecutor Keller J. Blackburn, who is heading the case, said in a press release.

Faber said that Blackburn and his special investigations unit have a proven record of cooperating to see public servants come to justice when they steal, cheat, or lie to Ohio’s taxpayers.

“This is just one more example of someone who thought they could outsmart law enforcement but instead faces time behind bars,” Faber said.

Rickard pleaded not guilty to all counts during her arraignment Tuesday morning.

Judge George McCarthy of the Athens County Court of Common Pleas set Rickard’s bail at $1.5 million, the sum the prosecution claims she stole from the AMHA. If she posts the required 10 percent to satisfy the bond, she will be placed under home arrest, ordered to wear an ankle monitor, and required to surrender her passport. Her retirement and bank accounts are all frozen.

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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Background Photo “Courtroom” by Carol M. Highsmith.


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