Robert Schwerman, a former maintenance foreman, pleaded guilty in September to theft in office and tampering with records, both third-degree felonies. In addition to the prison sentence, Judge Carolyn Friedland of the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court ordered Schwerman to pay restitution to the district.
“Mr. Schwerman’s shameless misspending has come to an end thanks to an effective partnership between state and local governments,” Auditor of State Dave Yost said. “I want to extend my gratitude to the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor, the Lorain County Sheriff and the Strongsville Police Department for helping to secure justice for the community.”
An investigation by the Auditor of State’s Public Integrity Assurance Team traced school district property worth $67,748 to Schwerman’s residence in Lorain County. A search warrant executed at the residence on May 10 recovered 78 items, including an upgraded John Deere utility vehicle valued at more than $23,600 and a $9,600 zero turn lawn mower. Auditors said Schwerman ordered many of the items through the district and kept them for his personal use.
Following the investigation, the district reclaimed 41 of the items and sold them at a public auction for $16,918. The original purchase prices of the auctioned items totaled $48,607 – a difference of $31,689.
Auditors said 27 of the stolen items that had cost the district $11,623 were left at Schwerman’s residence because they were attached to his property or were too large to be removed. The remaining 10 items were returned to the district for its use, although they had depreciated by $1,333.
The audit issues a finding for recovery against Schwerman, ordering him to repay $44,645 to the district for financial losses resulting from the theft. The district received repayment from Schwerman in November.
District officials responded to the audit by saying they have taken several steps to enhance the district’s internal controls. The improvements include an internal fraud hotline, an updated system for tracking inventory and a more thorough approval process for purchase requests.
The Auditor of State’s office started investigating Schwerman in 2017 after receiving a tip alleging that he stole district property and purchased equipment through the district for personal use. The tip came through the Auditor of State’s fraud hotline, where allegations of fraud against governmental entities can be reported anonymously (1-866-FRAUD-OH).