Saturday, December 28, 2002

Florence to make $1M bond claim

By Stephenie Steitzer
Enquirer contributor

FLORENCE - The city's attorney drafted a letter to the Great American Insurance Companies last week telling the company that the city would make a full claim on Ron Epling's $1 million bond in the near future.

City Attorney Hugh Skees said Florence would make the claim once investigators finish inspecting records belonging to the fired finance director, who is suspected of embezzling $1.24 million from city coffers between January 2001 and August 2002. "The records are presently in the hands of the prosecuting attorney," Mr. Skees said. "We both can't work on the same records."

Mr. Epling, 51, of Delhi Township, was arrested two weeks ago and remains in the Boone County Jail on $1 million cash bond. He was charged with 18 counts of theft greater than $300 after investigators said they found Mr. Epling had been subsidizing his estranged wife, two stepdaughters and a former Newport stripper with Florence taxpayer money since he was hired 15 years ago.

The 18 charges stem only from deposits in a single Fifth Third Bank account, which Mr. Epling named "Florence Capital Improvements Fund," but which was linked to his own Social Security number.

Investigators expect the amount missing to grow as they examine other accounts and businesses held by Mr. Epling. The city of Florence purchases bonds for all employees who have access to city funds to cover any incidents of fraud. Some employees are covered with $10,000 bonds, while Mr. Epling, who set up and maintained city accounts, was covered by a $1 million bond.

City Clerk Betsy Conrad could not determine Friday how much the city spends on fidelity bonds.

Mr. Skees said the biggest challenge for the city would be recovering any amount Mr. Epling took that exceeds the $1 million bond, which covers a three- to four-year period.

With $1 million in bond coverage on Mr. Epling for the period from Jan. 1 to present, the city could be out about $240,000, if the amount of loss doesn't rise - and depending on when the money was taken. Mr. Skees said the city would go after tangible items such as a $650,000 home his wife recently purchased in Triple Crown, a condo for sale at more than $180,000 and a $200,000 home in Delhi Township that Mr. Epling lived in with his girlfriend.

Mr. Skees said it is likely that Cincinnati-based Great American would also go after some of the same assets.

Spokesmen for the Cincinnati-based company could not be reached for comment Friday.

Cliff Peale contributed to this report.

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