Police probe thefts of large props from set of ‘Beetlejuice 2’ in East Corinth
Thieves have reportedly struck the movie set of “Beetlejuice 2” in East Corinth, making off with two large props.
Film crews have been in the town in recent days as they make a follow-up to the 1988 “Beetlejuice” movie. In the late 1980s, production crews also were in East Corinth to shoot the original “Beetlejuice” film.
Director Tim Burton and his crew reportedly had one sequence left to film in Vermont when it wrapped July 13 as a result of the SAG-AFTRA actors’ strike, according to Seven Days.
State police received a report Friday at 12:35 a.m. that someone had driven a pickup truck to a large lamppost on Village Road, which had a distinctive pumpkin decoration on top, according to a state police release.
The person removed the lamppost from its base, put it into the back of the truck — reported to be an older-model GMC pickup with unknown license plates — and covered it with a tarp, the release stated. The vehicle then sped quickly away, according to the release.
Then, the release stated, at around 4 p.m. on Monday, movie officials reported that thieves had stolen a roughly 150-pound abstract art statue from the area of a cemetery. That theft is believed to have occurred between Thursday, July 13, at 5 p.m. and Monday at 11 a.m.
Adam Silverman, a state police spokesperson, said Thursday that he didn’t have a more exact location of the cemetery.
“It came in essentially as the perpetrators’ vehicle had parked in the vicinity of the cemetery and had walked to the vicinity of where the sculpture was, but we don’t have any more specifics than that,” he said.
Silverman said state police have reached out to movie officials to get an estimated value of the thefts.
He also said the items could appear online on movie memorabilia collectors’ sites, seeking buyers.
“Certainly we encourage people to keep their eyes out,” Silverman said. “By putting it out to the public, we hope to generate some leads.”
Former Athens housing authority director sentenced for multi-million dollar theft
ATHENS, Ohio — Former Athens Metropolitan Housing Authority Director Jodi Rickard pleaded guilty to seven felony charges on Tuesday as part of a deal with the Athens County Prosecutor’s Office.
Rickard was indicted in February on charges related to her multi-million dollar theft from AMHA. Visiting Judge Daniel Hogan sentenced Rickard to eight to 12 years in prison and ordered her to pay more than $2.3 million in restitution. She will be eligible for judicial release after five years and will spend five years on parole once she is released.
AMHA’s attorney David Mott said at the hearing, “This was not just a simple theft of taxpayer funds — these were funds intended to provide housing to low income residents of the county. So, this was essentially a theft of decent housing from our most vulnerable neighbors.”
Matthew R. Eiselstein, director of communications for the Ohio Auditor of State’s office, said, “We’re proud of the efforts of our [Special Investigations Unit] team and appreciate the efforts of Prosecutor [Keller] Blackburn’s office in bringing this crime to a conclusion.”
Rickard initially pleaded not guilty to all charges, but changed her plea as part of a deal with the Athens County Prosecutor’s Office. Hogan sentenced Rickard according to the terms described in the agreement.
At the hearing, Rickard’s attorney, K. Robert Toy, agreed with Athens County Assistant Prosecutor Meg Saunders that evidence obtained in the case demonstrates Rickard’s guilt.
“She is remorseful, and that is something that is sincere,” Toy said. “I’ve dealt with a lot of people — usually with much smaller amounts it happens: They take a little bit, they intend to pay it back, and then they take a little more, and they intend to pay that back, and they don’t. And then it snowballed into the tremendous amount that we’re dealing with here today.”
Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn agreed. “What she did was reprehensible and wrong, but her actions after she got caught were among the best that we’ve experienced,” he said, adding that this is reflected in the plea agreement.
In addition to prison time, the plea agreement specified that Rickard will pay $2,325,395.12 in restitution to AMHA. Saunders said that amount is based upon the Ohio Auditor of State’s investigation into Rickard’s theft, though AMHA acting director Stan Popp told the Independent the state investigation remains ongoing.
AMHA’s last released audit indicates the housing authority had $6.51 million in revenue in 2020 to provide housing for low-income residents of Athens County.
Popp reiterated the agency’s claim that “AMHA has not experienced any reduction in the services it provides as a result of [Rickard’s] theft. However, the loss of funds has slowed AMHA’s ability to expand its services.”
When Rickard was indicted in February, investigators had identified at least $1.5 million in theft from the organization since 2015. Blackburn told the Independent at the time he believed the total amount Rickard stole was substantially greater.
In order to pay the full amount of her restitution, Rickard forfeited 50% of assets in bank accounts held jointly with her husband; all bank accounts held by her alone; all money in her Ohio Public Employee Retirement System account and in her deferred compensation account; and all material goods obtained with stolen money.
Blackburn said it is unclear exactly how much money Rickard has in these accounts, but estimated the total amount at around $200,000. Rickard will have to pay the full restitution amount ordered based on her ability, he said.
Toy said, “She is giving up everything that she has.”
“Any restitution of funds AMHA receives will be reinvested into its mission,” Popp said. “Until an exact amount is known, AMHA is not able to be more specific.”
Popp said Rickard was not bonded, and while AMHA’s insurance may or may not cover any of the loss, the housing authority’s insurance policy limit is $250,000.
“AMHA will never be made whole on the full loss,” Popp said.
Rickard also agreed to forfeit her Albany home and property as part of the agreement. Blackburn said that the home will be forfeited to law enforcement, with proceeds designated to pay for law enforcement investigation. Blackburn said the funding could be used to pay for the state auditor’s investigation. He added that he does not want his office to take in funding from the home’s sale and said he will seek an alternative arrangement with the court.
Rickard’s husband agreed that the property he shared with Rickard and the funding in joint bank accounts was subject to forfeiture. He was not required to accept these terms by law, and he was not indicted in the case.
“He’s going to be suffering because of her actions, and he is an unknowing beneficiary of her actions,” Toy said.
Toy described Rickard’s family as among the victims of Rickard’s theft from AMHA.
“It’s brought huge consequences for her family and herself — for herself justified, and for her family, they’ve victims of this too, and they understand that, and they forgive her,” Toy said.
Rickard used AMHA funds to pay personal credit card debts as well as her mortgage, according to a February press release from the Athens County Prosecutor’s Office. Rickard’s credit card payments showed charges for large sums spent on vacations and the installation of an in-ground pool, the release said.
Rickard allegedly stole large sums of money from AMHA’s General Fund, which has since been closed, and falsified financial reports. Search warrant documents obtained by the Independent paint a picture of highly unusual circumstances that led to the eventual discovery of Rickard’s theft, including an audit related to a 2022 office fire, a death in Rickard’s family which prompted her to take leave and an anonymous tip.
Eiselstein, with the state auditor’s office, said, “Criminals can certainly be clever and when they have the keys to the store, they can be hard to catch. A lack of fiscal controls enabled Jodi Rickard to obfuscate her criminal actions for years. As the sole bookkeeper operating under little oversight, Rickard was able to conceal her actions by falsifying documents and altering transaction records. Previous audits had identified weaknesses in financial reporting and oversight by management, but these recommendations were never implemented which allowed her to continue her grift against the taxpayers of Athens County for years.”
According to an affidavit included in the December 2022 search warrants served on AMHA, Rickard’s activity was successfully concealed for many years in part through “a lack of Board monitoring” and “went undetected by the Board due to lack of reviews and monitoring.” The affidavit alleges the board saw only summary income statements and performed no review of bank accounts or reconciliations.
Former board chair Mary Nally recently stepped down from the position after moving to Meigs County, she said. Gregg Andrews, a local realtor and Hocking Athens Perry Community Action’s longtime Housing and Community Development Director, now serves as board chair, Popp said.
The housing authority has taken steps to address the issues which led to Rickard’s theft, including changes to its financial processes.
Athens County Court of Common Pleas Judge George McCarthy presided over Rickard’s criminal case until May 18, after which Hogan took over as judge, according to Bre Woods, who works in McCarthy’s office. The court initially requested a visiting judge on Feb. 14, the day following Rickard’s indictment, Woods said.
Woods said the court sought a visiting judge because both McCarthy and Judge Patrick Lang appoint members to AMHA’s board, which was considered a conflict.
NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect comments from the Ohio Auditor of State’s office.