Ex-director charged with stealing $1.5M from Athens housing authority

Jodi Rickard pleaded not guilty to charges that she wrote checks on Athens Metropolitan Housing Authority accounts to pay for vacations and a swimming pool.

ATHENS, Ohio — Jodi Rickard, former director of the Athens Metropolitan Housing Authority, was arrested Monday for the alleged theft of over $1.5 million from AMHA since 2015. 

Rickard was indicted on seven felony counts related to theft and evidence tampering after an investigation by the Ohio Auditor of State’s office. She pleaded not guilty to all counts during her arraignment Tuesday morning, appearing over video from the Southeast Ohio Regional Jail and speaking in clipped, one-word sentences.

According to Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn, the total amount Rickard allegedly stole may prove higher as investigators look into financial transactions before 2015. Athens County Assistant Prosecutor Meg Saunders said in court Tuesday that investigators with the auditor’s office had already turned up even more funds that were allegedly stolen beyond the $1.5 million listed in the indictment. 


Rickard was appointed head of the housing authority in 2020 after serving 18 years with the agency, including some time as finance director. Its last released audit indicates the body oversaw more than $6 million in revenue to provide housing for low-income residents of Athens County.

Rickard allegedly used AMHA funds to pay personal credit card debts as well as her mortgage, according to a press release from the prosecutor’s office. The release states Rickard’s credit card payments showed charges for large sums spent on vacations and the installation of an in-ground pool.

According to the press release, Rickard wrote checks drawn from AMHA funds “for her personal benefit,” including:

  • 72 checks to Discover, totaling $1,286,659. 
  • 28 checks to Capital One, totaling $261,708. 
  • 1 check to WesBanco, holder of Rickard’s mortgage, for $34,000.

Rickard also allegedly wrote a $16,000 check to Discover in December 2022, which was stopped before clearing.

Search warrant documents obtained by the Independent also noted checks Rickard allegedly wrote to her father and a payment to “The GreenSky Program.” However, Blackburn said that only the transactions to Discover, Capital One and WesBanco contributed to the indictment. 

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Athens County Court of Common Pleas Judge George McCarthy set Rickard’s bond at $1.5 million, the amount that prosecutors allege she stole from the AMHA. If she posts the 10% required to meet the bond, she will be held on house arrest and required to wear an ankle monitor and turn over her passport. All of her bank and pension accounts are frozen. 

Rickard’s attorney, Bob Toy, did not offer any input on the amount of her bond but told the court that Rickard has “significant” health issues.

Toy said he intends to work “towards a resolution” with the prosecutor’s office. 

Listen to Independent reporters Dani Kington and Sam Stecklow discuss this story on WOUB’s “Conversations From Studio B”:

The investigation

The search warrants include an affidavit by Ohio Auditor of State investigator John F. McElhaney, which states that the auditor’s office opened its inquiry into AMHA in October 2022. An electrical fire days earlier had destroyed some files in the office, so investigators met with Rickard to go over what records still existed and investigate delays in bank statements from AMHA beginning that April. Rickard provided some bank statements, but investigators returned days later to conduct on-site testing. 

However, days after the inquiry opened, Rickard’s father died, causing delays. AMHA finance director Sherrie Boudinot began to perform some of Rickard’s duties, the affidavit said. On Nov. 28, 10 days after Rickard’s father died, AMHA board member Kelly Hatas received an anonymous tip “of fraud/embezzlement at AMHA,” according to a search warrant affidavit. 

According to the affidavit, Hatas told an auditor’s investigator to contact Boudinot and said some expenditures from the agency’s “General Fund” were for credit cards not owned by AMHA as well as checks made out directly to Rickard’s father. Hatas, who is also executive director of Hocking Athens Perry Community Action, has not responded to a request for comment.

AMHA’s general fund is a clearing account to which funds are distributed from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Funds are transferred out of that account to another, which covers AMHA’s payroll and accounts payable, according to the affidavit.

Boudinot told investigators that Rickard had instructed her to deposit funds into the “General Fund.” When Boudinot checked the fund, she saw the payment of $16,000 to Discover, according to the affidavit. In court Tuesday, however, Saunders said that a $16,000 check had been “found on a desk,” which prompted the further investigation.

Investigators found that all of the improper checks Rickard wrote from the “General Fund” account contained the signature of an unnamed AMHA board member, though it was unclear “if the signatures are mechanically affixed,” the affidavit states. AMHA board chairperson Mary Nally said in a statement that “my signature was used by Ms. Rickard without prior approval.” 

“Unfortunately, one of our financial processes involved using electronic signatures on AMHA checks, including the signatures of Ms. Rickard and myself,” she wrote. “Clearly, this is a process that must be changed, and it is one we will address going forward.”

McElhaney’s affidavit states that Rickard tampered with bank statements and deleted an email sent to Boudinot’s account by the auditor’s office seeking a meeting, in an apparent attempt to prevent Boudinot from speaking with them.

On Dec. 7, investigators executed a search warrant at the AMHA offices at 10 Hope Drive on the far east side of Athens. The warrant states that Rickard gave a statement admitting to stealing over $374,000. The next day, investigators executed a second warrant on AMHA’s maintenance building, which served as a primary office due to the fire. On Dec. 9, the AMHA board put Rickard on leave.

According to a copy of Rickard’s indictment obtained by the Independent, Rickard’s house outside Albany is subject to seizure through asset forfeiture by authorities. The property is valued for tax purposes at $137,960, according to Athens County Auditor’s Office records.

Lack of oversight?

According to McElhaney’s affidavit, 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 did not look at anything but a summary income statement to monitor financial activity and performed no review of bank accounts or reconciliations.

Blackburn said no one else affiliated with AMHA is under investigation at this time.

AMHA Chair Mary Nally wrote in a statement, “AMHA is stable and financially sound, and we are operating as usual. We share the community’s concerns about this situation, and we are fully cooperating with the investigation. It is important to know that Ms. Rickard is no longer employed by AMHA, and our team is firmly focused on continuing to provide the same high-quality service to low-income families in our community without interruption. Because this is an ongoing legal investigation, we are unable to make any further comments.”

Nally is also the director of Ohio University’s Center for Campus and Community Engagement.

Matt Eiselstein, director of communications for the Ohio Auditor of State, said, “As with any investigation of this nature, related audits will focus on the potential lack of internal controls that may have been present at the time of the crime.” He declined to comment further.

A review of AMHA’s financial controls procedures do not appear to contain any provisions that would block Rickard, or another executive director, from allegedly abusing their financial power at AMHA in this way. Nally said that following the state auditor’s investigation, AMHA will “determine what financial controls or other processes need to be put in place to prevent situations like this from occurring.”

AMHA’s most recent audit, released in Feb. 2022, identified a “significant deficiency” in the agency’s financial statements. “Due to COVID-19 the Authority Staff was working from home,” auditors wrote. “During the audit period the Authority had to deal with a fire at its administration office. This made it difficult in preparing the financial statement. The Finance Director had to rush to meet the deadlines in filing the financial statement. A thoughtful review was not performed.”

In a “planned corrective action,” AMHA wrote in response that it understood “it is essential to report complete and accurate financial information to the public. The Housing Authority was faced with many challenges due to the COVID-19 Pandemic this past year. The Housing Authority does not anticipate having these issue[s] for the 2021 year.”

The person responsible for the corrective action was listed as Rickard.

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