By Margie Wuebker
Arnold Fast, longtime treasurer of the Western Ohio Colt Racing Association, pleaded guilty Wednesday morning to taking more than $185,000 from the organization.
The 68-year-old Fast, who resides at 8585 Burrville Road, appeared before Mercer County Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey Ingraham. Plea negotiations resulted in the original theft charge being reduced from a third- to a fifth-degree felony.
He reportedly took a total of $185,225, but has paid back $173,697.42 to date. In keeping with the agreement, he will repay the remaining $11,527.52 by week's end.
Ingraham set sentencing for 9:30 a.m. Dec. 10. Fast faces a maximum sentence of 12 months in prison and a $2,500 fine.
Mercer County Assistant Prosecutor Matt Fox said the charge stems from events occurring between Feb. 27 and March 2, when Fast apparently diverted two association checks totaling $131,000 for his own purposes. An auditing firm was brought in after allegations surfaced to determine the exact amount of money taken as well as how much had been repaid. Representatives of the Ohio Harness Horsemen's Association initially contacted Wapakoneta attorney John Poppe about serving as legal adviser in the wake of suspicions regarding money missing from the Western Ohio Colt Racing Association. The organization, comprised of representatives from 11 county fair boards, collects funds for stake racing events held at fairs throughout the summer.
Investigators discovered in late July that Fast had used some of the money to pay an outstanding mortgage loan, according to Poppe. Bank records reportedly confirmed those suspicions and indicated transactions occurred on more than one occasion.
Seven fair boards, including those in Mercer and Auglaize counties, received the money they had been expecting because Fast paid back the dollars in time.
The shortage reportedly hit the final fairs on the circuit, with fair officials in Wyandotte and Allen counties not receiving all the money to which they were entitled. Allen County officials ended up not taking all the money they were due so Wyandotte could recoup its entire amount.