WAYNE TOWNSHIP, Ohio — A Wayne Township man admitted to stealing more than $700,000 from the Animal Friends Humane Society over several years while serving as a volunteer treasurer, according to prosecutors.
Jeremy Bruce Taylor, 48, pleaded guilty in Butler County Common Pleas Court to aggravated theft, a third-degree felony. Taylor, a CPA, diverted cash from the nonprofit agency that cares for homeless animals to pay off his own credit cards and make personal purchases from June 4, 2014 to March 26, 2021, according to Assistant Butler County Prosecutor Garrett Baker.
The amount stolen totaled $730,984.19, according to the assistant prosecutor.
“He was volunteering as the treasurer during that time,” Baker said. “(Taylor) used funds from Animal Friends’ bank account to pay off his own personal credit card. That alone was approximately $677,000."
Taylor used the personal card for vacations and going to concerts and “was spending quite a lot per month,” he said.
In addition, Taylor also used the organization’s credit cards to make purchases for his own benefit, including paying his cell phone bill and making purchases at Kings Island.
“I think it just becomes a source of funds for him,” Baker said, adding there were also a number of purchases to Rural King and other businesses for Taylor’s farm.
Taylor also wrote checks to a fictitious vendor and when the animal friends board asked for some bank financials, he provided with them with falsified statements, Baker said.
There was a change to board leadership in 2020 and board members asked Taylor for financial documents, but he was reluctant. He eventually turned over bogus documents, Baker said.
The board hired a forensic accountant and Taylor hired an attorney who then contacted police and the prosecutor’s office, according to Baker.
“He (Taylor) was cooperative and provided all the documents, including the altered ones,” the assistant prosecutor said.
Taylor is free on his own recognizance until sentencing. Judge Greg Stephens set sentencing for July 18. He faces up to 36 months in jail.
“It was clear he was trying to cover this up and keep it from them, it is clear the bank statements had been photoshopped,” Baker said. “It was a bad decision for him to enrich himself at the humane society’s expense. I can’t think of a worse entity to steal from.”
The Animal Friends Humane Society Board released a statement about Taylor that said in part, "A former member of our board exploited the trust we placed in him and used his training as a CPA and knowledge of our financial processes to steal from this organization. The AFHS Board and Executive Director uncovered the embezzlement on its own and hired legal representation, including a forensic accountant, to conduct a full review of our records."
A professional bookkeeper and an outside CPA has been hired as part of a variety of changes to ensure something like this never happens again, according to the statement from board attorney George Jonson.
“Our bylaws are being updated by an attorney specializing in nonprofits to ensure complete transparency and adherence to standards for best practices for nonprofits. Notable changes include limiting board member terms and instituting an annual auditing procedure,” the statement reads.
“AFHS is Butler County’s only open admission shelter and maintains a success rate rivaling that of advertised “no-kill” shelters. AFHS has achieved and/or surpassed that rate since 2019. Our high live release rate is due in part to our executive director’s creation of several new positions ... She and her staff ensure every single animal has a great opportunity for adoption into a loving, permanent home. And in 2020, an additional 214 dogs and 103 cats were pulled from overcrowded (struggling) shelters, saving them from euthanasia and offering them an additional chance at adoption,” according to the statement.