Former Miami County elections official pleads guilty in invoice forgery

TROY — Miami County’s former deputy elections director pleaded guilty Monday to a felony charge of forgery involving an invoice for election supplies that was altered.

Ian Ridgeway, 30, of West Milton, was placed on paid administrative leave by the elections board in early August after election leaders were notified an investigation was being initiated in response to a complaint of questionable procurement practices in the elections office. Ridgeway handled that function.

He was employed by the office as deputy director from fall 2018 until late October when he and the board of elections signed a separation agreement that included Ridgeway’s resignation effective Oct. 13.

He was in Miami County Common Pleas Court on Monday afternoon with attorney Jeremy Tomb. Ridgeway waived a grand jury’s consideration of allegations against him and pleaded to a fifth-degree felony.

Judge Jeannine Pratt accepted the plea, ordered a presentence investigation and set sentencing for Jan. 11, 2024.

Ridgeway is free on his own recognizance. He answered questions Monday from Pratt about understanding his rights but made no comment regarding the allegations.

The fifth-degree charge includes a possible prison term of six to 12 months and a fine of $2,500. He also could receive probation for up to five years.

Neither Ridgeway nor his lawyer had any comment Monday. Ridgeway previously issued a statement, writing, “While I did not intend to engage in any activity that was inappropriate or illegal, I recognize that I have inadvertently violated the law.”

The case focused on a document submitted to the auditor’s office in July as an invoice that appeared to be altered “as it was completely different from any other invoice from that company,” a Sheriff’s Office investigation report said. “That invoice had been sent to the Auditor’s Office by Deputy Director of the Miami County Board of Elections, Ian Ridgeway, with a request for a purchase order to pay for the purchased goods.”

The “invoice” was for items purchased from a local business in the spring. A representative of the business told investigators the “invoice” did not come from the business. Investigators said an evaluation of Ridgeway’s computer showed efforts to convert documents, with copies of both the original and fraudulent invoices found in files.

“This officer believes that Ridgeway spent nearly four hours researching and attempting to manipulate the original invoices in a way that would allow him to alter the invoice dates from March and April of 2023 to July of 2023. His attempt was unsuccessful, and it appears that he utilized an invoice template to create a fraudulent invoice instead. That invoice was subsequently sent to the Auditor’s Office,” the report stated.

Investigators said they were told by elections Director Laura Bruns that late payment of bills had been an ongoing problem with Ridgeway.

Dave Fisher, elections board chairman, said Monday he was “disappointed because he (Ridgeway) is a very talented man that just had a lapse in judgment. I hope getting this behind him, he will be able to get himself on the right path.”

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