Sansones get computers back from investigators

No records kept of time spent on Hastings probe

By Gary Abernathy - [email protected]



Home computers that were taken last week from city of Hillsboro administrative assistant Debbie Sansone and her husband, Rick, were returned to the Sansones on Monday.

Debbie Sansone confirmed Wednesday that the computers were returned and “everything was working.” She said flash drives that were taken were also returned.

Meanwhile, law enforcement officials said this week that they could not answer questions that are frequently posed by the public about how many hours have been devoted to the investigation of Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings, or at what cost.

Ben Marrison, communications director for Ohio Auditor Dave Yost, said Wednesday that the auditor’s office does not separately log time spent on a particular investigation from the other duties of the office.

Robert F. Smith, assistant chief legal counsel for Yost’s office, was named a special prosecutor in the case back in January. A second individual – an investigator from Yost’s office – has been leading the probe of Hastings. Marrison said the auditor’s office does not track “case-specific” hours.

Likewise, Highland County Sheriff Donnie Barrera said Wednesday his office does not log time spent by deputies on specific cases. He said even when deputies are working on the Hastings case, they are working on other cases throughout each day. The sheriff’s office has been playing a supporting role in the state auditor’s investigation.

After the home computers were confiscated last Wednesday, Rick Sansone wrote an email describing the events and complaining that medical and tax information, along with family photos and recipes, were on the computers.

Barrera said Wednesday that the Sansones’ computers were actually ready to be returned to them on Friday, but no one was available to receive them. Debbie Sansone said Wednesday that she and her husband were out of town that day.

Barrera said that the investigator from the state auditor’s office had offered to let the Sansones download personal information from the computers – such as medical and tax records – onto a thumb drive or storage device before the computers were taken.

Investigators from the state auditor’s office served a search warrant last Wednesday at the Sansones’ residence in order to confiscate the computers and flash drives.

The warrant and affidavit, provided to The Times-Gazette by Hillsboro Municipal Court, stated that investigators were looking for evidence of theft in office, tampering with records, forgery and obstructing official business.

The affidavit included information contained in previous affidavits, including issues involving a $500 rebate Hastings received for a vacant property fee he had paid, allegations of forgery involving the stamped signature of Safety and Service Director Todd Wilkin, and another search in January of Sansone’s computer at the city building.

Earlier affidavits previously reported by The Times-Gazette included allegations that Hastings had used a city dumpster for personal items, that he had asked a witness to “lie” about the use of the dumpster, and also detailed how investigators have compared water usage in various places Hastings has claimed as residences, along with documenting appliances and clothing found in the mayor’s Hillsboro home.

The affidavit filed last week stated that Debbie Sansone is now under investigation along with Hastings.

The affidavit stated that Sansone’s city-issued computer was analyzed by an expert with the Ohio Bureau of Investigation Cyber Crime Lab, who determined that while the document authorizing the $500 refund was accessed on the computer, “there is no evidence of the file being printed” from that computer.

The analyst “stated that during his analysis that 8 different flash/thumb drives were used” on the city-issued computer. The expert concluded that “it is possible that the ‘06-24-2015 Refund of Vacant Building Fee’ file was transferred to a flash/thumb drive and printed from another computer either located in the City of Hillsboro offices or off site.”

Based on the information, the affidavit stated that investigators believed that “evidence of Forgery, Obstruction of Official Business, Theft in Office and Tampering with records will be located on Debbie Sansone’s personal computer/laptop and/or USB flash/thumb drives,” located at her residence.

The spokesman for Yost’s office said Wednesday that officials had no comment on the status of the investigation.

Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.

No records kept of time spent on Hastings probe

By Gary Abernathy

[email protected]