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12-11-04 Celina man gets probation for stealing horse racing money

By Margie Wuebker

  The longtime treasurer of the Western Ohio Colt Racing Association has been sentenced to probation after he admitted to taking more than $185,000 from the organization.

  Arnold Fast, 68, 8585 Burrville Road, Celina, appeared in Mercer County Common Pleas Court on Friday morning to learn his fate after pleading guilty last month to an amended charge of theft.
  Fast sat quietly at the defense table as Judge Jeffrey Ingraham ordered him to serve up to one year monitored time under the supervision of the adult probation department.
  "I'm sorry for what I did," Fast told the court prior to sentencing. "I realize how wrong it was. It will never happen again."
  Defense attorney Thomas Luth noted Fast served as the association's financial officer for 12 years without incident. He added full restitution has been made in the amount of $185,225.  "Not one race was affected and not one purse went unpaid as a result of his actions," Luth said. "He has cooperated with law enforcement, the prosecution and the victim in this case. I hope you will keep these factors in mind at the time of sentencing."
  Mercer County Assistant Prosecutor Matt Fox made no recommendation in regard to sentencing but noted the Western Ohio Colt Racing Association, comprised of representatives of 11 county fair boards, did indeed suffer repercussions as evidenced by a victim's impact statement filed with the court.
  Plea negotiations resulted in the original theft charge being reduced from third- to fifth-degree felony status. It stems from events occurring between Feb. 27 and March 2 when Fast apparently diverted two association checks totaling $131,000 for his own purposes.
  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 association. 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.
  Investigators discovered in late July that Fast used some of the money to pay outstanding debts, according to Poppe. Bank records reportedly confirmed those suspicions and indicated transactions occurred on more than one occasion.
  The organization collects funds for stake racing events held at fairs throughout the summer with Fast having sole responsibility for maintaining the records and making payments.
  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 last four fairs on the circuit.
  Fast would pay each fair board as race day neared, according to Poppe. However, fair officials in Wyandotte and Allen counties did not receive all the money to which they were entitled in a timely fashion.
  In a recitation of sentencing factors, Ingraham noted Fast had no prior convictions and made restitution in full. "His intent was to repay the money before charges were filed," he added.
  The judge warned Fast that failure to comply with the terms of probation could result in a six-month prison sentence.  


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