Ohio ex-transportation employee gets prison time for $400K theft

CANTON, Ohio (AP) — A former Ohio transportation employee accused of defrauding the agency of more than $400,000 was sentenced to prison.

A judge ruled that if Kristy Williams, 38, of Plain Township, cooperated with authorities, her four-year prison term could be reduced, the Canton Repository reported Monday.

Williams, the former human resources director of the Stark Area Regional Transit Authority, pleaded guilty to aggravated theft, theft in office and insurance fraud and forgery last week.

The mother of four is accused of bilking the public busing agency out of $406,000 through various schemes that include insurance and college tuition reimbursement fraud.

Williams has also been charged with misusing the agency credit cards and gift cards intended for an employee wellness program, according to Stark County Assistant Prosecutor Beau Wenger.

Another former agency employee, Brandy Pryor, was also charged in the case that followed an extensive investigation by the Ohio Auditor’s Office.

Before being escorted out of the courtroom Monday, Williams told Stark County Judge Frank Forchione that at least three other SARTA employees had also engaged in illegal activity.

Forchione believed her claims were serious enough to order her to remain in Stark County Jail for a week before being transported to an Ohio prison.

During this time, the judge will order investigators to interview Williams about her claim in an effort to potentially lower her prison term.

“SARTA is not Santa,” Forchione said. “This money isn’t like a Christmas present under the tree.”

He added, “Now, I’m going to be honest with you, I’m a little concerned with what’s going on at SARTA.”

Kirt Conrad, SARTA’s executive director and CEO, said the state auditor’s office conducted a more than two-year probe and didn’t uncover other crimes.

“We have demonstrated repeatedly that we have nothing to hide,” Conrad added.

Stephen Kandel, Williams’ attorney, said he believes the $406,000 in misused or stolen funds should not all be attributed to his client.

During the hearing, Kandel said he believes his client has “valuable information.”

Forchione didn’t promise Williams will have an early release, but said he’ll consider it.