Thursday, September 11, 2003

Florence official who stole sued


Federal action seeks restitution

By Brenna R. Kelly
The Cincinnati Enquirer

COVINGTON - The federal government wants former Florence finance director Ron Epling's money and property.

In a civil lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Covington last week, the government says that Epling's assets are the result of his stealing from city coffers.

Epling pleaded guilty in February to 35 counts of theft totaling $2.8 million. He is serving 16 years in state prison.

Though Epling admitted to stealing $2.8 million over seven years, the city and prosecutors think the amount was closer to $4.9 million.

Florence Mayor Diane Whalen said the city worked with the U.S. Attorney's Office on the forfeiture lawsuit and will file a claim against the assets in hopes of recovering some of the money.

The lawsuit seeks Epling's girlfriend's house in Cincinnati, his condo in Triple Crown, his wife's $700,000 Triple Crown home and a house in Lexington.

An affidavit attached to the lawsuit states that Epling used the money stolen from Florence to buy the house and a Pontiac Grand Am for his girlfriend.

Epling also used $300,000 in stolen money to start Eclips Hair Salons with his wife, Billie Epling, the affidavit states. Stolen money also funded her Triple Crown home, according to the affidavit.

The government wants $416,000 that is in eight bank accounts. They also want his 1997 GMC Jimmy, 2001 Chevrolet Trailblazer, a $22,000 coin collection, and furnishings at his Cincinnati and Union homes.

Epling covered his tracks by depositing checks to the city into the city's general fund, then transferring the money to an account labeled "capital improvements," but the account was Epling's personal account, not the city's capital improvements account.

He was caught after a city audit in December of last year.

E-mail bkelly@enquirer.com




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