Two men convicted of stealing tens of thousands of dollars from the Ohio Turnpike Commission will spend the next six months on probation and pay back the stolen money.
Paul Bindas, 47, and Steven Harper, 42, both of Canfield, appeared Thursday before Judge Lou A. D’Apolito of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.
Nick Modarelli, an assistant county prosecutor, said Bindas and Harper, as former employees of the turnpike commission, stole more than a combined $78,000.
Harper, under a plea agreement with prosecutors, entered a plea of guilty to one count of felony theft. Bindas already had entered the same plea to the same charge in September.
Both men were facing up to 18 months in prison each upon conviction, but under the terms of the plea agreement, prosecutors and the turnpike commission agreed to the recommendation for probation if the men both repaid the money.
Harper, represented by Atty. J. Gerald Ingram, and Bindas, represented by Atty. James Lanzo, have agreed to repay the money in one lump sum.
Harper, through his attorney, presented a check to the court for $42,171 just before his appearance before the judge. Bindas has agreed to have $35,949 taken from his retirement fund with the Public Employees Retirement System to satisfy the amount he owes to the turnpike commission.
Judge D’Apolito ordered the money to be paid directly to the turnpike commission. But he assured Bindas that if the money is paid to him from PERS — and those funds are not given to the turnpike commission — he will spend the next 18 months behind bars.
Neither Bindas nor Harper made any statement to the court before sentencing except to say they are sorry for their actions.