Former Zoo Employees Indicted on 89 Charges After Theft of $2.2M


Three former Columbus Zoo and Aquarium employees have been indicted on 89 felony charges after an investigation of misuse of funds and resources, according to Ohio Attorney General Yost.

Former CEO Tom Stalf, former Director of Marketing Pete Fingerhut, and former Chief Financial Officer Greg Bell each face multiple felony counts.

“I’m confident that when the allegations are heard in the court of law, the jury will agree that these former executives of the Columbus Zoo extorted, conspired, bribed, and stole over $2 million in public funds for their own benefits,” Yost said. “In simple terms, the bank hired the robbers to work security.”

Fingerhut was indicted on 62 felony charges and one misdemeanor charge:

  • 1 count Engaging in a Pattern of Corrupt Activity
  • 2 counts of Aggravated Theft
  • 2 counts Bribery
  • 1 count Conspiracy
  • 2 counts Extortion
  • 7 counts of Money Laundering
  • 39 counts of Tampering with Records
  • 8 counts of Telecommunications Fraud
  • 1 count Falsification

Bell was indicted on 14 felony charges:

  • 1 count of aggravated theft
  • 1 count conspiracy
  • 12 counts of tampering with records

Stalf was indicted on 36 felony charges:

  • 1 count Engaging in a Pattern of Corrupt Activity
  • 2 counts Bribery
  • 1 count Conspiracy
  • 6 counts of Money Laundering
  • 2 counts of Telecommunications Fraud
  • 2 counts of Aggravated Theft
  • 22 counts of Tampering with Records

Stalf and Bell voluntarily resigned from their positions in 2021.

In a written statement provided on Monday, Mayme Norman, vice president of philanthropy, said, “The Columbus Zoo is committed to transparency and accountability and has taken a comprehensive approach to address every recommendation highlighted in the Plante Moran forensic report,” Norman wrote. “Additionally, the Columbus Zoo has severed the relationship with several previous vendors and has retained a new auditing firm to conduct its annual audit, ensuring a fresh perspective on its financial operations and a new advertising agency to better communicate its mission. To strengthen governance and oversight, the organization has restructured and significantly reduced the size of the Board of Directors.”

  1. Jeremiah Johnson
    Jeremiah Johnson
    September 19, 2023 at 8:15 am

    Do they own a spell checker?

  2. Cat fish
    Cat fish
    September 19, 2023 at 10:46 am

    Just don’t understand why people think they can get away with this stuff

  3. Anabel
    September 19, 2023 at 10:29 pm

    Perhaps I can get a refund so I can afford to get in to see what all of Ohio’s residents didn’t benefit from by purchasing a ticket. Good grief. There is no way that money will ever return. But I hope they had a good insurance policy against theft of employees. Entitled people make me nuts!


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