Justin Kornhaus of West Chester, a former Butler County Clerk of Courts employee, pleaded guilty to theft in office Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020 in Butler County common Pleas court in Hamilton. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Former Butler County clerk’s office employee admits to theft in office

Justin Kornhaus, 36, of West Chester Twp., pleaded guilty to theft in office, a fifth-degree felony, on Thursday in Butler County Common Pleas Judge Jennifer McElfresh’s courtroom.

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In February 2019, the post office alerted Clerk of Courts Mary Swain that Kornhaus had printed about $1,800 in postage labels and filled out a refund form with his personal information. She said people can get a 90 percent refund on unused postage, but the postal service flags refunds that reach $1,000 or more for further investigation.

An investigation by the sheriff’s department indicated that from April 30, 2018 to Feb. 12, 2019, Kornhaus followed the same procedure 10 times for a total of $4,306.02, according to prosecutors.

Kornhaus resigned his position and admitted to the fraudulent transactions. Swain and many of his former co-workers were in court Thursday when he entered the guilty plea.

Attorney Frank Schiavone IV said Kornhaus cooperated with authorities when confronted with the crime and has provided funds for repayment.

“I do believe there are issues that need to be addressed,” Schiavone said. “Mental health issues, self-medication issues and an indicated of gambling addiction.”

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Schiavone said Kornhaus “wants to get help, he wants to address the issues.”

“For Mr. Kornhaus to be incarcerated will not help address the issues,” Schiavone told the judge.

The crime carried a maximum of 12 months in prison.

Kornhaus apologized to Swain, who was seated in the front row of the courtroom, and his former co-workers.

“I have not excuse for it,” he said. “I am sorry for everything that I have done.”

Before sentencing, McElfresh acknowledged that Kornhaus has accepted responsibility, but noted he was in a position of trust when he committed the crime. The judge also said during the pre-sentence investigation process, Kornhaus tested positive for cocaine.

McElfresh placed Kornhaus on five years community control, but ordered that he first serve 30 days in the Butler County Jail. He was taken away in handcuffs.

Schiavone had no comment after the hearing.

“Mr. Kornhaus broke a trust not just with our office, but also with Butler County taxpayers,” Swain said. “It is my understanding, and it is fitting that, with this felony conviction, Mr. Kornhaus will never be able to be employed by any public office or hold an elected position.

“This felony was the result of a breach of faith, a violation of confidence, to those who Mr. Kornhaus worked with and to those he swore to protect.”

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