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Ex-member of task force to enter plea



Published: Tue, August 21, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The task force's director said he'll be glad when the episode is finally over.

By NORMAN LEIGH

VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU

LISBON -- A former Columbiana County Drug Task Force member is expected to plead guilty to a charge related to the theft of money from the agency in March.

A hearing is set for 10 a.m. Aug. 28 in Columbiana County Common Pleas Court, during which the plea is to be entered.

"There is an agreement. It's set for a plea," special Prosecutor Eugene Muldowney said Monday.

Muldowney declined to offer specifics of the plea, the crime, or the person expected to enter a plea in the case.

His statement that a former task force member will plead to charges marks the first time that authorities have publicly acknowledged that they believe the crime was committed by someone within the agency. The task force consists of law enforcement officers from throughout the county.

Money was returned: Most of the stolen money was returned several days after the theft occurred in mid-March. It was given to Columbiana County Prosecutor Robert Herron by someone acting as a go-between for the suspect.

Herron's role in accepting the cash makes him a possible witness in the case and necessitated appointing Muldowney as special prosecutor.

Muldowney is an assistant Portage County prosecutor.

He was appointed by Columbiana County Common Pleas Court in May to handle the case at Herron's request.

Herron, who also is a member of the task force controlling board, was unavailable to comment.

"It's nice to get it done and over with, so that we can move on," said Brian McLaughlin, task force director.

McLaughlin acknowledged that having a former task force member plead guilty in the theft might be a hurdle for the agency's reputation to overcome.

But despite the crime, he said he's confident in the integrity of the agency and its members.




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