The Columbus Dispatch

Prosecutor opposes freeing man who stole $448,621 from county

Saturday, December 6, 2003
NEWS   01B

By Robert Ruth and Tim Doulin

Illustration: Photo

Jesse D. Oddi Jr., the longtime Franklin County official convicted in 1998 of stealing $448,621 from the court clerk's office he oversaw, will ask next week to be released early from prison, his attorney said.

However, county Prosecutor Ron O'Brien said Oddi still has not made full restitution and should not be considered for release until he does.

"That is not to say that even if he does make full restitution that we would agree to it,'' O'Brien said.

Tuesday marks the fifth year of Oddi's six-year sentence in the Madison Correctional Institution in London.

Sam Shamansky, one of Oddi's attorneys, said yesterday a motion for release will be filed next week.

Shamansky hopes to have a hearing in early January before Common Pleas Judge John A. Connor.

Oddi is eligible to request early release after serving five years in prison, Shamansky said. Connor sentenced him on Dec. 9, 1998.

"We feel five years is a heck of a lick for a guy who had no (criminal) record before,'' Shamansky said. "It would be overkill to continue to incarcerate him for any longer.

"Release will allow him the opportunity to again become a productive member of society. He has been a model inmate with an exemplary record.''

Shamansky said the county has been reimbursed the entire amount that Oddi admitted stealing, out of Oddi's own pocket and through the county's bonding and insurance companies.

Oddi and his wife, Elaine, sold their 2,463-square-foot house in Grandview Heights for $270,000 and turned the profits over to the county.

Of the $448,621 stolen, $394,000 has been paid so far.

O'Brien said Oddi still owes the more than $54,000 difference, and he also should reimburse two insurance companies the $140,000 they had paid the county to cover the loss.

O'Brien said he, not Oddi, secured the payments from the insurance companies for the county after lengthy negotiations.

"Mr. Oddi was not at all involved in that process,'' and he should not receive credit for it, O'Brien said.

Even if Oddi makes restitution to his satisfaction, O'Brien has concerns about the message an early release of Oddi would send to the public and other public employees.

Oddi resigned as clerk in April 1998 after being charged with theft. He pleaded guilty to 49 criminal charges, including theft and racketeering. He stole traffic fines paid by juveniles and falsified paperwork and voided transactions on a computer system to cover up his thefts.

Oddi embezzled the money over 13 years while serving as chief deputy clerk and clerk. He was named clerk in 1995, taking over for Thomas Enright, who retired.

Two employees with the clerk's office informed authorities of their suspicions about Oddi. Law-enforcement officers installed a video camera in Oddi's office that recorded him stuffing money into his pockets.

Jesse D. Oddi Jr. has served five years of a six-year prison term.

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