Thursday, April 25, 2002

City worker charged as loan shark

Money lent at work for quadruple repayments

By Robert Anglen,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A Cincinnati sanitation worker will be arraigned Friday on three felony counts for an alleged loan-sharking operation that city officials say he was running on other employees while at work.

        David Hicks, indicted by a Hamilton County grand jury, faces up to four years in prison if convicted on charges that he loaned employees money against their paychecks for up to quadruple the amount borrowed.

        He is also charged with forging the signature of one employee on a loan agreement that city investigators say Mr. Hicks had employees sign before lending them money.

        Mr. Hicks, who could not be reached for comment, denied any wrongdoing.

        In a report released Wednesday from the city's Office of Municipal Investigation — which investigates allegation of employee misconduct — Mr. Hicks denied charging employees interest.

        “Mr. Hicks said he loans money because he has been in their position in the past, and people helped him out by loaning him money,” the OMI report says.

        Public Services Director Daryl Brock, who oversees the sanitation department, said it amounts to loan sharking.

        “That's what I've been calling it,” he said. “That's what it sounds like to me.”

        Mr. Hicks, who has been employed as a cleaner since 1998 and makes $28,000 annually, has been suspended without pay pending the outcome of his criminal case. He also faces discipline, whether or not he is convicted, Mr. Brock said.

        “I'm not going to tolerate this,” Mr. Brock said. “Employees have to be able to come to work, come to a safe environment and not be abused like that.”

        A department supervisor said he contacted city investigators after another sanitation employee reported Mr. Hicks threatened him for non-payment.

        Sanitation laborer James Brown told OMI that he borrowed $200 and after missing two pay periods, Mr. Hicks told him he now owed $800. After paying about $500, Mr. Hicks allegedly told Mr. Brown to sign over his $573 paycheck and gave him $373 in return.

        Mr. Brown said twice following that exchange, Mr. Brown told OMI that Mr. Hicks had threatened him.

        OMI found that Mr. Hicks had made loans to several employees. He sued an employee in small claims suit for $2,000 on a loan the employee said was initially $800. In that case, the employee said he was too afraid to contest it.


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