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Ex-officer pleads guilty in COVID-19 ammunition scheme

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(The Center Square) – A former small-town Ohio police officer and a gun shop owner pleaded guilty in an ammunition buying scheme during the COVID-19 pandemic.

State Auditor Keith Faber announced the pleas of former officer Jeffrey Stearns and business owner William Grant Timberlake on Friday. Sentencing for Timberlake is expected in late March, and Stearns is scheduled to be sentenced April 19.

As previously reported by The Center Square, the two were indicted in August after an investigation by Faber’s Special Investigations Unit, which got a tip about an officer using Bolivar’s tax-exempt status and law enforcement discounts to buy ammunition.

Both faced felony counts of unlawful transfer of weapons, engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, theft, telecommunications fraud, falsification in a theft offense and complicity.

Stearns, who was an officer in the village of Sugarcreek at the time of the indictment, was also charged with felony counts of tampering with records and money laundering, along with a misdemeanor count of representation by a public official.

Stearns pleaded guilty to one count of telecommunications fraud, a fifth-degree felony, in Tuscarawas County Common Pleas Court.

Timberlake, who owns G&R Tactical, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of attempted telecommunications fraud.

Faber said SIU determined that, during the coronavirus pandemic, when the private sale of ammunition was scarce, Stearns allegedly falsified documents to complete the ammunition purchase, allegedly for use by the Bolivar Police Department.

However, Timberlake picked up the rounds, and the Bolivar department had no knowledge of the transactions and received no ammunition for use by its officers, according to Faber.

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