Customers stand inside the Butler County Clerk of Courts title office in the Government Services Center NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Photo: Staff Writer
Photo: Staff Writer

‘He found a way to beat the system’: After alleged postage theft, Butler County offices check practices

A former Butler County Clerk of Courts employee is accused of stealing about $3,000 in postage, something that is not likely to happen again or in any other county office, officials said.

The post office alerted Clerk of Courts Mary Swain on Thursday that one of her employees had printed off 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.

Swain called the sheriff and prosecutor, and after a brief investigation, Justin Kornhaus of West Chester Twp. allegedly admitted he made the fraudulent transactions. He reportedly printed and received refunds for postage labels about 10 times since 2017, totaling about $3,000.

After he was confronted, Kornhaus resigned immediately, officials said.

“It’s disappointing to put your trust in a valued employee and have that trust abused,” Swain said.

Kornhaus was the special projects manager and helped institute a new mailing system, and “that’s how he came to be the person that was so involved with this machine and the processes,” Swain told the Journal-News.

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Swain said that because the incident was recently detected, officials have not put safeguards in place yet, but she believes they have found a way to make sure this can’t happen again.

Charges are pending against Kornhaus. County Prosecutor Mike Gmoser said due to the amount of money allegedly stolen, felony five charges would be warranted, but since the theft took place in office by a public employee enhanced charges are possible.

Gmoser characterized Kornhaus as a “nibbler,” meaning he was likely only stealing small amounts at a time, “not grabbing fists full of dollars” — until this last episode — so detection would have been difficult.

“I look at him as a nibbler who is in a position of trust, who is able to use a little bit at a time,” Gmoser said. “So if he’s nibbling, I can understand and I think the general public might understand how that could go unnoticed.”

The majority of the county uses the centralized mail room, under the commissioners’ office control. Swain’s office sends a lot of certified mail, which is why her office needs to handle its own mail.

County Treasurer Nancy Nix sends out tax bills twice a year and uses a third party vendor, so she says there are safeguards in place already.

“That’s all outsourced so we would notice if there was a spike,” Nix said. “We know ahead of time what our postage bill will be for each collection, so I don’t feel exposed in that area.”

Roger Reynolds, the county auditor, said his office does not have its own postage machine, but theft is sometimes hard to prevent.

“You know, there are always crafty ways that you’re vulnerable for theft,” Reynolds said. “You hope you have the necessary controls in place to check it. But there’s nothing foolproof, no controls are foolproof.”

Butler County Sheriff’s Chief Tony Dwyer said Kornhaus was cooperative.

“There is more documentation that we need to gather to move forward with charges,” Dwyer said. “It is the first theft case I have ever had involving a postal machine. It is creative. He found a way to beat the system.”

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