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Former Pike Co. Sheriff, Who Investigated Massacre of Eight People, Is Sentenced for Thefts Which Funded Gambling Habit


Charlie Reader

An Ohio sheriff best known for investigating a high-profile mass murder was sentenced on Wednesday for using his position to steal money seized in drug cases. He also surreptitiously bought a seized vehicle that his office put up for auction, then later sold it for $3,500 more than he spent to buy it.

Charlie Reader, 47, must spend a total of three years in prison.

The Law&Crime Network’s Angenette Levy was at court.

Reader was suspended as Pike County Sheriff in 2019 amid allegations that he stole seized drug money in order to fund a gambling debt. Reports indicate he lost thousands of dollars over three years at the El Dorado Scioto Downs casino and more than $700 in one day at the Hollywood Casino in Columbus, Ohio. He ended up pleading guilty to two counts of theft in office, two counts of tampering with evidence, and one count of conflict of interest. Prosecutors dropped the remaining 13 counts against him.

Reader continued to deny that he used the stolen money for gambling, though the judge noted that according to the pre-sentence investigation, there was no documentation to show he had given money to charities.

“I’m a good person who made bad decisions and choices,” Reader said while asking for probation. He wanted to be available to see his son go to college and his daughter get married. He said his father was very ill. Attorney Jim Boulger asked for a report date to prison because the defendant’s father was in the hospital. Judge Patricia Cosgrove said she would consider it if his father was on death’s door, but he was not.

Some locals spoke on Reader’s behalf and described him in glowing terms.

One of them, Rev. George Michael Whitley, brought up the horrifying Pike County Massacre, where seven members of the Rhoden family and one member of the Gilley family (who was engaged to a Rhoden) were shot and killed April 22, 2016 in crime scenes spanning three trailers and a camper. Members of Wagner family were charged in the murders. One of the defendants, Edward “Jake” Wagner, had had a daughter with victim Hanna May Rhoden. Cases involving the crime spree are ongoing.

The defense in Reader’s sentencing said the former sheriff’s experiences caused him to have post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Charlie Reader was entrusted to enforce the law in his community and literally gambled it away,” Ohio Auditor of State Keith Faber said in reaction to the sentence. “His choices do not diminish the dedication of the thousands of law enforcement across Ohio that willingly sacrifice, serve, and protect us every day- these men and women deserve our utmost respect. I commend the quality and committed investigators and prosecutors who unearthed his misconduct and ultimately brought him to justice.”

Faber noted that Reader pleaded guilty to two fourth-degree felonies, two third-degree felonies, and one misdemeanor.

“The felony charges to which Reader pled guilty all relate to evidence bags containing seized currency which were in Reader’s possession,” a press release from Faber’s office states. “The Conflict of Interest charge relates to Reader’s purchase of a Nissan Versa at the Pike County Sheriff’s auction of seized vehicles. Reader had a straw buyer purchase the vehicle for $2,000. Several months after the purchase, Reader sold it for $5,500.”

[Screengrab via The Law&Crime Network/Angenette Levy]

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