Former Columbus Zoo Purchasing Agent Pleads Guilty

(DELAWARE, Ohio) — A former purchasing agent for the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium must pay $90,000 in restitution to the zoo after pleading guilty this morning to six felonies and two misdemeanors, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced.

Tracy Murnane, 65, of Westerville, pleaded guilty in Delaware County Common Pleas Court to:

  • One count of grand theft (F4).
  • One count of complicity in the commission of an offense (F4).
  • Two counts of forgery (F4).
  • One count of telecommunications fraud (F5).
  • One count of filing incomplete, false and fraudulent tax returns (F5).
  • Two counts of certificate of title (unclassified misdemeanors).

Murnane, who was charged in a bill of information filed on May 23, will be sentenced on Sept. 23 at 11:00 a.m. 

His plea agreement follows that of former zoo Marketing Director Pete Fingerhut, who last week pleaded guilty to 16 felony counts and one misdemeanor and is required to pay nearly $676,000 in restitution. He will also be sentenced on Sept. 23.

Fingerhut and two other former zoo executives were indicted in September 2023 on charges of stealing more than $2.29 million in public funds for their own benefit. In the two other cases:

  • Tom Stalf, former chief executive officer, was charged with 36 felony charges. He is scheduled to go to trial on Aug. 6 in the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas.
  • In October 2023, Greg Bell, former chief financial officer, pleaded guilty to 14 felony charges, including aggravated theft, conspiracy and tampering with records. Bell will be sentenced after his co-defendant’s cases conclude.

The Attorney General’s Office was appointed to prosecute the case at the request of Delaware County Prosecutor Melissa Schiffel. The Ohio Auditor’s Office is assisting in the investigation and prosecution.

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