Former Lebanon City Schools choir director Kristi L. Ross was granted treatment in lieu of conviction Thursday on charges stemming from her embezzlement of more than $2,100 from a booster group.
Ross, 36, of Centerville, admitted buying personal items on Amazon, using the Lebanon Choir Parents Association credit card and submitting the purchases for reimbursement using falsified invoices indicating the purchases were for items used by the Decibelles, a show choir club.
Judge Donald Oda II accepted Ross’ guilty plea to a felony theft and misdemeanor misuse of credit cards, tampering with records and falsification charges.
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Oda explained to Ross she would avoid conviction on the charges if she paid back the money, completed outpatient mental health treatment and some training, and abstained from drugs and alcohol for three years.
Her lawyer, Dennis Lieberman, said he had the full restitution in his trust account and was ready to pay it to the court.
Prosecutors and victims declined to contest the alternative decision.
“The legislature has determined that they want to grant mental health and/or substance-abuse treatment in lieu of someone having a felony conviction, even in cases like these,” Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell said afterward.
“I certainly understand the frustration for the community when they see an outcome like this, particularly in a case where someone in a position of trust so significantly violates that trust,” Fornshell said. “It frustrates me too.”
After declining to comment beyond her plea responses, Ross apologized, accepted responsibility and described her work in Lebanon as her dream job.
“I have been pretty much just a train wreck,” she said. “I am barely functioning.”
Ross used credit cards belonging to the choral group to order personal items totalling more than $2,100 without permission of the organization and attempted a cover-up, including false statements to police, according to authorities.
The case came to light in November 2019 when district Superintendent Todd Yohey said she was placed on leave, based on an accusation from the booster organization.
Ross resigned and was charged initially in December in Lebanon Municipal Court.
She previously taught and directed choirs in Carlisle Local Schools from 2006-2009.
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Lieberman indicated there was a “mental health component” that “contributed significantly to her actions.”