Scammer sentenced to 2 years in prison

Zenobia Road resident Judy Berner, one of several victims in a water softener scam, said she is grateful to see a judge "throw the book" at the culprit. Starting in June 2004, Ryan P. McKinley, 31, of Mansfield, checked multiple victims' still functioning water softeners, told the residents the units had malfunctioned and needed to be replaced.
Norwalk Reflector Staff
Jul 25, 2010

Zenobia Road resident Judy Berner, one of several victims in a water softener scam, said she is grateful to see a judge "throw the book" at the culprit.

Starting in June 2004, Ryan P. McKinley, 31, of Mansfield, checked multiple victims' still functioning water softeners, told the residents the units had malfunctioned and needed to be replaced.

Huron County Common Pleas Judge Earl McGimpsey sentenced McKinley to two years in prison Thursday, the maximum sentence.

"McGimpsey was mad because he was trying to scam the court," Berner said. "He was as angry as I have ever seen him."

McKinley reportedly created a story about his son being hospitalized in Columbus and made up the name, address and telephone number of a doctor, the rural Norwalk woman said. The defendant had requested the judge release him on an emergency bond before Thursday's hearing.

"They called the hospital and they had no record of a child by that name in the hospital," Berner said.

During a July 14 plea agreement, the state dismissed two theft felonies in exchange for McKinley agreeing to pay about $16,500 in restitution.

"He put $4,000 down (Thursday) and we're all going to get something pro-rated, but he'll still have to pay the whole thing," Berner said.

McKinley's defense attorney, in April, said his client would have to borrow the money from his fiancee.

Huron County Prosecutor Russell Leffler said he didn't know the exact number of victims, but his office had five or six listed. He recently received information from Milan Police Chief Jim Ward about another possible victim.

Berner accused McKinley of victimizing people "across two counties or better."

"He's really quite the salesman, he thinks. He hasn't learned anything," Leffler said.

He said it is important for people to realize they are not immune to white collar crime and fraud.

In April, the court revoked McKinley's bond after he failed to appear for his Sept. 19 sentencing hearing, prompting a grand jury indictment on a related fourth-degree felony. Police arrested McKinley on the warrant during a Montgomery County traffic stop in mid-April.

He faces a June 12 trial and, if convicted, faces up to 18 months in prison and a maximum fine of $5,000.

"Ryan has had his more than his (share of) chances ... and he still hasn't learned his lesson," Berner said.

"I'm glad the justice system worked. You can't sit back and let this stuff happen."