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Press Release

Former Ottawa County Sheriff Charged With Using Law Enforcement Money For Personal Items

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Ohio

The former Ottawa County sheriff was charged with improperly spending about $5,000 that was to be used for law enforcement purposes to instead pay for for personal items including Cedar Point tickets, clothing and prescription medicine, said Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, and Stephen D. Anthony, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Cleveland office.

Robert Bratton, 60, of Genoa, Ohio, was charged in a criminal information with one count of theft concerning programs receiving federal funds.

“Money that was supposed to help the men and women in law enforcement was instead diverted and spent on personal items, including tickets to an amusement park,” Dettelbach said. “That is hardly amusing to the rest of us.  Those who are trusted to enforce the law, above all, cannot place themselves above it.”

Anthony said: “A sheriff who chooses to ignore his sworn oath to uphold the law and engage in criminal behavior is totally unacceptable. The FBI will investigate those who violate the public’s trust, no matter what position that individual holds.”

Bratton served as Ottawa County sheriff from 2004 until his resignation in September 2011. In 2010, the sheriff’s office received approximately $27,290 from the Furtherance of Justice Fund (FOJ Fund), which provided law enforcement entities to pay for expenses relating to official law enforcement duties and in the furtherance of justice, according to the information.

The Ohio Auditor provided guidance to county sheriffs in 2007 under the heading “Permissable Expenditures of F.O.J. Funds.” It read, in part, that an “expenditure must be both in the performance of the officer’s official duties and in furtherance of justice to be allowable.” The bulletin also stated, “There is always the additional requirement that the expenditure must be for a proper public purpose,” according to the information.

Bratton, as the county sheriff, was a fiduciary over F.O.J. Fund money provided to his office.

In 2010, Bratton used approximately $2,865 in F.O.J. Fund cash and also used a credit card linked to the F.O.J. Fund to purchase various personal items, including Cedar Point tickets, prescription medicine and clothing, all of which were non-permitted expenses under F.O.J. Fund rules and regulations, according to the information.

As of Dec. 31, 2010, Bratton reimbursed the F.O.J. Fund for some of the money he used for personal items, but failed to replace all the F.O.J. Fund money by that date, according to the information.

An information is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt.  A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

If convicted, the defendant’s sentence will be determined by the court after review of factors unique to this case, including the defendant’s prior criminal record, if any, the defendant’s role in the offense and the characteristics of the violation.  In all cases, the sentence will not exceed the statutory maximum and in most cases it will be less than the maximum.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Gene Crawford and Antoinette T. Bacon and following investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. 

Updated March 12, 2015