Saturday, August 14, 1999

Boone property valuator admits stealing thousands


Turner says he was addicted to casino gambling

BY JANE PRENDERGAST
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        BURLINGTON — An addiction to riverboat gambling led Boone County's property valuation administrator to plead guilty to a theft charge Friday.

        David Turner admitted to authorities he used as much as $45,000 in office funds to feed his habit and agreed to go to jail for a year, pay back all the money and immediately quit his job.

        He was indicted Friday on a charge of theft by unlawful taking, a process he started himself this week by confessing his deceit to Sheriff Mike Helmig.

        He told the sheriff he moved money among several office accounts to cover the thousands in cash advances he took on the office credit card.

        Mr. Turner, 35, swore he'd never even gone to a racetrack and only bought an occasional lottery ticket until December 1995, when he first stepped foot onto a riverboat casino. He was able to cover his own losses until sometime in 1997, when he began misappropriating funds, officials said. By the time he started attending Gamblers Anonymous meetings in April, he would wake up thinking about how he could get to a casino that day, said his attorney, David Davidson.

        “He just laid it all out,” the sheriff said of Mr. Turner's confession. “He said it was such a relief to get it out.”

        An audit by the state is not finished. So far, investigators think $32,000 is in question. Mr. Turner admitted to even more, estimating the amount between $40,000 and $45,000. Auditors also are questioning credit-card charges at local hotels and restaurants as well as

        at Toys 'R Us. Some of the money has already been paid back, Mr. Davidson said.

        Mr. Turner has been married for 15 years and has two children. He will be allowed out of jail to work so that he can pay restitution and support his family. He will be sentenced Oct. 12.

        Commonwealth Attorney Willie Mathis will recommend that he be given five years' probation, with jail, restitution and resignation as the key conditions of the deal.

        Mr. Turner has not gambled since April, Mr. Davidson said. He has been to the two local riverboats since then, but only to take his name off their mailing lists.

        Mr. Turner is among 5 mil lion compulsive gamblers in the United States — a number growing all the time, particularly because of the increase in gambling outlets like casinos, said Arnie Wexler, whose New Jersey consulting company educates casinos about dealing with addicts.

        “I'm not going to admire what happened,” Mr. Davidson said. “But you just saw a man stand up and say, "I did it.' He took responsibility.”

        It was the second indictment of a Northern Kentucky PVA in two days, but officials said there was no connection between Mr. Turner and Bill Kaiser, who was indicted Thursday in Campbell County on charges of stealing $49,000.

       



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