More than a year after former Allen County Sheriff Samuel A. Crish resigned, he walked into a federal courtroom Monday handcuffed and escorted by U.S. Marshals.
Mr. Crish, 54, formerly of Delphos, Ohio, pleaded not guilty to three counts of bribery, two counts of extortion, and one count of making false statements. In an indictment unsealed Monday, federal prosecutors allege he solicited or extorted nearly $100,000 from five people between 2012 and 2016 and lied to federal investigators looking into the matter.
His indictment follows an FBI raid on his office in Lima, Ohio, in September, 2016, and his resignation in January, 2017.
“The conduct described in these charges is as offensive as it is audacious,” U.S. Attorney Justin E. Herdman said in a news release. “Demanding bribes from drug dealers, gamblers, and johns arrested in prostitution stings reads like something out of a bad movie.”
Mr. Herdman said the former sheriff let down his former employees and the residents of Allen County, who first elected him in 2008 and re-elected him in unopposed races in 2012 and 2016. When the former sheriff resigned, his attorney said Mr. Crish was battling a gambling addiction.
Magistrate Judge James Knepp allowed Mr. Crish to remain free pending trial but imposed conditions, including travel restrictions. He ordered Mr. Crish, who said he now lives in western Pennsylvania, to avoid contact with any victims or witnesses in his criminal case and to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. He also prohibited him from having any firearms or ammunition.
“Mr. Crish, do you understand all of those conditions?” Judge Knepp asked.
“Yes sir,” he replied.
“Do you see any problem complying with those?” the judge asked.
“No sir,” he replied.
The former sheriff’s indictment came as no surprise to those in Lima, where the FBI raid on his office and ensuing investigation was well-publicized.
Current Sheriff Matthew Treglia said he has been working for the past year on removing “the black cloud” that has been hanging over the office.
“This office has moved past Sam Crish,” he said. “We’re just focused on the future of this office and the citizens of Allen County, which are my main concern. We have a lot of great employees. We have a great administration, and we’re as transparent as we can possibly be with everyone. That’s how were going to continue.”
Mr. Crish and his attorney, Zachary Maisch, declined to comment after the court hearing. Lima attorney Michael Rumer, who also represents Mr. Crish but was not present in court, said he had not seen the indictment and could not comment.
FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen D. Anthony said the fact that Mr. Crish was a law enforcement officer made his alleged conduct “particularly egregious.”
“Mr. Crish tarnished his badge when he chose to use his official capacity to influence criminal investigations and to protect his self-interests,” Mr. Anthony said in a news release. “He further exacerbated the situation by lying to the FBI in an attempt to conceal his criminal conduct.”
Mr. Crish, a Republican, was hired by the sheriff’s office in 1991 and worked as commander of the investigations division and the West Central Ohio Crime Task Force.
He is the second county sheriff from northwest Ohio in recent years to face criminal charges for conduct that occurred in office.
Former Sandusky County Sheriff Kyle Overmyer is serving four years in prison for his 2016 conviction for deception to obtain drugs, theft in office, tampering with records, and other charges stemming from his theft of drugs and money from the sheriff’s office in Fremont.
According to the indictment unsealed Monday against Mr. Crish, in June, 2012, he asked an unnamed person for $8,000 to cover medical bills. The person gave him the cash in an alley behind the sheriff’s office and later applied for a job as a nurse at the Allen County jail.
Mr. Crish then told the person he needed $42,000 to pay debts, prompting that person to take out a home equity line of credit and give him the money. The sheriff’s office then hired that person as a nurse at the jail, the indictment states.
In March, 2013, Mr. Crish allegedly accepted $20,000 in cash from a person who asked him to not send deputies to a two-day party he was planning where he would charge a cover and sell liquor, according to the indictment. Later, the then-sheriff told the person he was going to be indicted but that he would “take care of it” if he would forgive half of the $20,000 debt.
In 2015, Mr. Crish solicited $7,000 from the owner of a used car business who was arrested during a prostitution sting. Mr. Crish then got the solicitation charges dropped against the person.
Later in 2015, Mr. Crish allegedly solicited — and received — a $10,000 loan from the owner of an Elida, Ohio, used car business owner who was then arrested during a prostitution sting. The person visited Mr. Crish, who asked him for $500.
In October, 2015, the indictment alleges, Mr. Crish went to the owner of a local grocery store and implied the business was going to be investigated for illegal gambling but said that he could stop it if the person gave him a loan. Mr. Crish allegedly received a $2,000 loan and repaid it without interest.
Mr. Herdman said he was unaware of any similar set of allegations against a law enforcement official that spanned the number of years and involved the amount of money Mr. Crish’s case covered.