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Ex-cop gets year in prison for theft

LISBON — A former St. Clair Township police officer was sentenced to a year in prison for charges related to more than $20,000 stolen relating to his job as a detective sergeant.

Joseph Brophey, 58, of East Liverpool, pleaded guilty in October to charges of theft in office, tampering with records and breaking and entering.

During Friday’s sentencing hearing, Stephanie Anderson, a prosecutor with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, told Judge Megan Bickerton that while she had agreed not to make a sentencing recommendation she still wanted Bickerton to be aware of the facts of the case, which included a scheme to cover up the thefts.

According to Anderson, Chicki Saracco, an employee of the township, found some discrepancies while processing payroll for the St. Clair Township police force on Feb. 1, 2016. A meeting was called and the plan was to demote Brophey to a patrol officer and make him pay back the money.

However, prior to the meeting, Brophey stayed late from his shift and entered the attic space above the police chief’s office. He stepped on a board that could not support his weight and fell through the ceiling. Then Brophey entered the sally port entrance area and a light came on, which illuminated his face for a camera.

Instead of the matter being handled in house, a full investigation was launched with Brophey’s records being fully examined back until 2010 by Ohio Auditor’s Office.

Anderson said some examples of the thefts committed were for claiming eight hours instead of four when transporting two prisoners for four hours at the court at the same time. Brophey also turned in additional hours for hearings that he would have been required to attend, but actually were canceled.

The tampering with records charge was for falsifying the time sheets and claiming all that additional overtime throughout the years, which was found to have totaled about $20,191. Brophey, who has continued to work but not for a police department, brought a check to court with him to cover the full amount to the sentencing hearing.

Prior to sentencing, Brophey’s defense attorney, Jennifer Reghetti, and his mother spoke on his behalf. While asking for community control, Reghetti said Brophey already has lost his career and his reputation. The matter has placed a financial strain on his marriage and embarrassed both Brophey and his family.

His mother spoke of the good things Brophey has done through the years, including his active role in church and his movement up through the ranks of the St. Clair department for the good work he had done. She said she believes the stresses of the job can cause someone to make an error in judgment. Additionally, she pointed to the number of family members in the courtroom there to support him, adding she does not believe that just because someone takes a plea agreement they are guilty of everything they are accused of doing.

Brophey chose not to make a statement in his own defense.

Bickerton pointed out these were taxpayers dollars in a place where they have to put levies on the ballot to help operate the police department. Additionally, she noted Brophey could have been facing only theft of office charges.

“You’re right, everybody makes mistakes, but it’s how we address those mistakes and correct those mistakes and what did you do when you got caught in those mistakes, you climbed into the ceiling in an attempt to tamper with more records … and you fell through the ceiling,” Bickerton said.

She noted that while she appreciated he made the restitution, but added he had the opportunity to make the restitution when the matter was just an in house matter and no one would have known what he had done. He instead chose to commit a second crime.

Brophey was taken into custody immediately.

djohnson@mojonews.com

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