OXFORD, Ohio — A former employee has admitted to stealing nearly $50,000 from Miami University using funds he collected as parking operation supervisor, according to the Butler County Prosecutor’s Office.
Tommy Jessie, 46, of Trenton, plead guilty to felony theft, a fifth-degree felony, Thursday in common pleas court. He paid restitution of $49,987.96 to the university at the plea hearing, said Assistant County Prosecutor Garrett Baker.
Jessie was the MU parking operations supervisor during the time of the theft — from Aug. 30, 2019 through Aug. 20, 2021. He was employed by the university for nearly nine years and was terminated on Aug. 20, 2021, according to Jessica Rivinius, Miami University spokesperson.
Jessie was able to steal using two methods, according to prosecutors. He was given access to card readers, which are digital devices that are used to accept or refund parking payments. He also had access to parking payment kiosks/machines.
According to prosecutors, Jessie used the card readers to give himself refunds linked to two re-loadable debit cards. Then he used one of the cards to make purchases for himself. In addition to the refunds he stole coin revenue and money from the kiosks and garages.
“He had been there (MU) a while and he really exploited the trust his supervisors placed in him,” Baker said. “At the end of the day he was supposed to go over to the parking garages, empty out the cash in the machines and then make a deposit. He stopped (making deposits) in 2019.”
It was at a time that Miami University was switching over to all digital forms of payment, so the thefts when undiscovered for a while, the assistant prosecutor said.
The tip-off was the second part of the theft scheme when Jessie made refunds on disputed parking payments to himself using card readers he had access to, according to prosecutors. There is a system for reimbursement of disputed parking payments made by credit or debit cards. Jessie began using that system to refund himself and loading the money on debit cards in his possession, according to Baker.
“He issued himself approximately $30,000 worth of refunds. Starting slow, but then bumping it up to giving himself refunds of $250 and $500,” Baker said.
Jessie used the reloadable card to make various purchases for his personal use from Amazon, including cooking related items.
“The purchases were definitely wants and not needs,” Baker said. “I think this was really a crime of opportunity. He saw that he had access to these funds and that his immediate supervisors trusted him.”
Jessie’s attorney Wayne Staton declined comment.
The case was investigated by Miami University Police who collected a “bevy” of evidence that led to the plea, the assistant prosecutor said.
Judge Jennifer McElfresh set Jessie’s sentencing for March 24. The charge carries a possible maximum sentence of 12 months in jail. Jessie is free on his own recognizance.