Preble County, Ohio Prosecutor's OfficeMartin P. Votel, Prosecuting Attorney

Jane Lightner Pleads Guilty to Theft in Historical Society Case

Published on February 18th, 2016

Summary

Mellanie Jane Lightner has entered pleas of guilty in the Preble County Court of Common Pleas for embezzling Preble County Historical Society funds during her tenure as the Society’s director of operations.

On Wednesday, February 17, 2016, Ms. Mellanie Jane Lightner plead guilty to one count of “Securing Writings by Deception”(R.C. 2913.43(A)), a felony of the third degree and one count of “Grand Theft” (R.C. 2913.02(A)), a felony of the fourth degree. These charges were based upon the defendant’s theft of funds from her former employer, the Preble County Historical Society and her theft of funds from an elderly benefactor of the Society. The plea brings to conclusion an extensive investigation performed jointly by the Ohio Auditor of State’s Office and the Preble County Sheriff’s Office. The investigation revealed that Ms. Lightner had stolen $64,237.32 from the Preble County Historical Society during her tenure as director, and $13,710.00 from the elderly benefactor of the Society. The case was prosecuted jointly by the Preble County Prosecutor’s Office and special prosecutors from the Ohio Auditor of State’s Office. As a term of the plea, the defendant must pay full restitution to victims of her crimes, and pay the full cost of the PCHS audit. Pursuant to the agreement, the parties are free to make sentencing recommendations to the court, including a recommendation for prison.

By law, a felony of the third degree is punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000; a felony of the fourth degree is punishable by a maximum term of eighteen months in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. Sentencing is scheduled for March 30, 2016 at 1:00P.M. in the Preble County Court of Common Pleas.

Preble County Prosecuting Attorney Martin P. Votel: The Preble County Historical Society is a valued institution in Preble County – one which not only preserves our history and our heritage, but also brings our community together by regularly hosting civic events. The Society is strongly supported by the volunteer efforts and financial contributions of many Preble Countians. This defendant was for many years the trusted director and fiscal officer of the Society. The investigation revealed that this defendant abused this trust by systematically embezzling funds from the Society in the course of her employment. The State will be recommending at sentencing that a prison term be imposed to punish this defendant for abusing the public trust and for victimizing an elderly and well-intentioned patron.