Former Stroh director sentenced for theft, must pay back $10,299

November 11, 2016 GMT

A former director of Bowling Green State University’s Stroh Center was sentenced Thursday to probation and must pay back more than $10,000 after reportedly stealing money meant for sports tournaments at the facility last year.

Benjamin Spence, 34, appeared before Wood County Judge Alan Mayberry.

In September, Spence pleaded guilty to one count of grand theft, a fourth-degree felony, and one count of tampering with records, a fifth-degree felony.

He was indicted earlier this year on two counts of theft in office and three counts of tampering, all of which were third-degree felonies.

As the result of a plea agreement, the remaining counts were to be dismissed.

Spence was charged earlier this year after BGSU issued a statement indicating the Wood County Prosecutor’s Office was investigating him following reported irregularities involving money associated with high school tournaments.

According to the statement, in August of 2015, BGSU internal auditors discovered “irregularities with cash handling practices done in connection with (Ohio High School Athletic Association) tournaments” held at the Stroh Center. “Upon learning of these issues, the University immediately suspended the employee responsible for the function, Director of the Stroh Center Ben Spence.”

Spence resigned his position in October 2015.

“I think he’s shown remorse for his activities,” Spence’s attorney, Jerome Phillips, said in court. “He has suffered not only the loss of his employment but the loss of his reputation as the result of this conduct.”

Jeff Jordan, CFO of the OHSAA, told the court that the organization relies on tournament revenues to provide services to students, including scholarships. He said that Spence’s offense “jeopardizes the delicate economic balance” under which the OHSAA operates.

He asked that Spence be sentenced to a period of incarceration.

Spence apologized for his actions, and said he “will move on from this and continue to be an outstanding citizen in this county.”

In addition to making restitution in the amount of $10,299.80, Spence was sentenced to three years probation and 300 hours of community service. Mayberry said that in this case, the community service hours would serve the purpose of a deterrent.

“There’s no question this court unfortunately sees similar things too often,” he said of cases involving embezzled funds. Mayberry expressed surprise that the state auditor’s office doesn’t pay close attention to such matters.