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Business & Economy

Former Columbus Zoo purchasing agent pleads guilty in $2.3 million theft scandal


Tracy Murnane, the former Columbus Zoo purchasing agent, pleaded guilty on Monday to his role in a scheme to defraud the zoo of almost $2.3 million between 2011 and 2021.

Murnane, 65, of Westerville, pleaded guilty to six felony charges, including grand theft, complicity in the commission of offense, two counts of forgery, telecommunications fraud and filing incomplete and fraudulent tax returns. He also pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors.

He is set to be sentenced in September.

The zoo's former Marketing Director Pete Fingerhut pleaded guilty to 16 felonies and a misdemeanor in the same scandal last week. He’s set to pay almost $676,000 in restitution to the zoo and the Ohio Internal Revenue Service.

Former zoo Chief Executive Officer Tom Stalf and former Chief Financial Officer Greg Bell were also embroiled in the scandal.

An investigation found that Stalf took entertainment tickets intended for corporate clients, let family members live in a house owned by the zoo for below-market rates and purchased a vehicle for his own use with zoo money. Bell was also accused of misuse of zoo resources.

Bell pleaded guilty in October to 14 felonies, while Stalf awaits an Aug. 6 trial in Delaware County Common Pleas Court on 36 charges.

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Allie Vugrincic has been a radio reporter at WOSU 89.7 NPR News since March 2023.