December 21, 2014

Elyria
Mostly cloudy
32°F
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Official pleads guilty to theft, tampering, repays $10,000

Attorney Jack Bradley holds a $10,000 check for repayment from his client, Chuck Camera, in court Monday. (CT photo by Bruce Bishop.)

ELYRIA — Chuck Camera pleaded guilty Monday to misdemeanor charges stemming from allegations that he stole from Lorain Youth Baseball when he served as the league’s president.

Camera, 57, agreed to immediately pay $10,000 to the league and will avoid serving a four-month jail sentence as long as he completes two years of good behavior under the terms of the sentence handed down by Lorain County Common Pleas Judge Mark Betleski.

Camera, who also is the superintendent of the Lorain Street Department, had originally faced felony charges, but his plea Monday was to misdemeanor charges of theft and four counts each of tampering with records and records to be kept for four years.

Lorain police launched an investigation into Camera’s handling of league money in 2008 after he stepped down as president of the league and his successors found discrepancies in the organization’s books.

As league president, Camera was responsible for collecting and reporting the proceeds from tip tickets that were sold to support the league at two Lorain bars, but the investigation determined that the amount of money raised by the sale of the tickets didn’t match up with what was reported to the state between 2004 and 2008.

“It was my responsibility to make sure those records were kept properly, and I failed to do so,” Camera said during Monday’s hearing. “It was my responsibility to make sure games were delivered properly, and I failed to do so. It was also my responsibility to make sure all monies were collected properly and deposited properly, and I failed to do so, and because of this I’m paying the money that was requested of me.”

Camera remained at his city job while under investigation and after he was indicted in 2010.

Lorain Mayor Chase Ritenauer said Monday that the city will now review Camera’s status and determine what, if any, disciplinary action Camera should face. He said the city will hold a predisciplinary hearing shortly to begin that process.

“The word ‘theft’ certainly needs to be discussed. It needs to have a careful look at what happened,” Ritenauer said. “As public officials things we do outside the workplace can have an impact on your job.”

Jack Bradley, Camera’s defense attorney, said his client wasn’t trying to steal from the league he led for years.
It was more of a case that Camera was in over his head, Bradley said.

“I think he took on a task that was beyond his abilities,” he said.

The league has about 70 teams and is supported by players’ fees, sponsorships, advertising and concessions in addition to the gambling revenue.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.