Richfield Police are looking for possible victims of a donation scam to come forward and help them find Gary Paul Thomas.
Detective Amy Ellis with Richalnd PD says Thomas, who claimed to be "Wood Thomas" was in Richfield asking for donations from residents. He told them that he was a volunteer fire fighter with the Richland Fire Department, and with a $25.00 donation to the department, he'd provide them with and install on their vehicle a reflective address placard; something Thomas claimed was for "safety."
Detective Ellis says one elderly resident had been watching Thomas and became suspicious when he'd seen him going back and forth to his unmarked civilian vehicle. When the resident approached Thomas and started asking questions, Thomas fled the scene.
Another resident confirmed that they'd met Thomas and could describe him.
The Richland PD then posted the notice with Thomas's photo to their Facebook page, asking others to come foreward (see below).
Detective Ellis says, so far, they have only the two reports, but they expect more to come forward.
As for Thomas, he's no stranger to the law. He is a registered sex offender out of Barberton, for unwanted sexual contact with a minor.
A former Richfield police officer who took money from the department's "Shop With A Cop" program has pleaded guilty to the charges.
42 year-old Michael Simmons of Stow was in charge of the Richfield "Shop With A Cop" program since it started in 2003.
Richfield's police chief found out about unauthorized transactions, and state investigators totaled over 26-thousand dollars missing.
They say Simmons used the money for personal items, gift cards and sporting event tickets.
He'll be sentenced on December 1st.
(Summit County Prosecutor's Office, news release) Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh announced today that Michael Simmons, 42, of Stow, pled guilty in connection with money stolen from a local "Shop With A Cop" program.
Simmons pled guilty to the following charge:
Grand Theft – a felony of the 4th degree
Simmons, an officer with the Richfield Police Department since 1999, oversaw the department's "Shop With A Cop" program since its inception in 2003. In January of 2016, Richfield's Chief of Police notified the Ohio Attorney General's Office after he became aware of unauthorized financial transactions with the program. Agents with the Bureau of Criminal Investigation discovered a total of $26,709.02 was missing from the "Shop With A Cop" account.
Investigators say Simmons used the money to buy several items including tickets to sporting events, electronics, clothing, tools, and gift cards for his personal use.
The "Shop With A Cop" program helps financially disadvantaged families by taking children on a shopping trip with law enforcement each holiday season.
Summit Count Common Pleas Court Judge Alison McCarty is scheduled to sentence Simmons on December 1, 2016 at 9am.