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Miami parking supervisor awaits sentencing after stealing nearly $50,000

A former Miami University employee has pleaded guilty to stealing almost $50,000 through his position as parking supervisor.

Tommy Jessie pleaded guilty to felony theft, a fifth-degree felony, on Feb. 17. At the plea hearing, he presented a check of almost $50,000 in restitution to Miami, according to records from the Court of Common Pleas. 

Jessie was employed by Miami as parking supervisor for almost 20 years, working from 1996 to 2006, and then from 2012 to 2021. 

Jessica Rivinius, senior director of news and communications at Miami, said the university identified the theft through an internal audit and alerted the Miami University Police Department (MUPD) to investigate.

Garret Baker, assistant Butler County prosecutor, said Jessie stole funds using two methods. First, he gave himself refunds through a handheld debit card reader used by parking supervisors to refund and accept parking payments. Second, he collected and kept money from parking garages and kiosks. 

“At first he started making small refunds to himself on a reloadable debit card,” Baker said. “Then it progressively got more over time.” 

The refunds began at $25 increments in Aug. 2020, and had escalated to $250 by May 2021. In total, Jessie stole approximately $30,425 from the card readers, $5,727 from the parking kiosks and $13,835 from the parking garages. 

According to Baker, the university was converting to digital payments at the time, allowing the thefts to go undetected. 

Rivinius said Miami has adopted numerous measures in response to the incident. 

“Parking Services has gone totally cashless for meters, garages and kiosks,” Rivinius wrote in an email to the Miami Student. “No parking technician will have access to money or systems that allow refunds.” 

Additional measures include the discontinuation of stand-alone card readers and the requirement of documentation for refunds that states the original purchase and reason for the refund. 

Baker said Jessie’s theft did not appear to be motivated by financial stress.

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“I think it was really just an opportunity where he saw that his immediate supervisor was trusting him a lot,” Baker said. 

Baker said Jessie used the stolen funds to purchase various non-necessities, including a paper towel holder, a canvas apron and a chef’s hat. 

“These aren’t things that people are desperate for,” Baker said. “And in the end, it didn’t pay for him because he ended up losing the job that he’d been at for a long time, ended up having to pay the money back and he’s got a felony conviction.”

Jessie’s attorney, Wayne Staton, declined to comment.

Jessie is currently free on his own recognizance, meaning he was released without having to post bail. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 24, which will be overseen by Judge Jennifer McElfresh in the Butler County Court of Common Pleas. The charge carries a maximum sentence of 12 months in prison.