MIAMI COUNTY — On Wednesday, the former chief financial officer of the foster care non-profit Isaiah’s Place was sentenced to serve five years of community control and ordered to pay back $34,912 to the agency.
Matthew Gunter, 58, of Troy, appeared in Miami County Common Pleas Court for the sentencing hearing with defense attorney Bob Huffman. Judge Stacy Wall sentenced him to serve five years on community control for third-degree felony aggravated theft.
Huffman said Gunter was more than remorseful for his conduct and accepted responsibility for his role in the theft and mishandling of funds through the foster children agency. Huffman said Gunter was “bullied and manipulated” by his sister and co-defendant Kelley Gunter, 54, who was the executive director of the agency. She also was indicted, charged and pleaded guilty to one count of third-degree felony aggravated theft. She will be sentenced following a restitution hearing on Sept. 18.
Matthew Gunter reported the theft in office to Huffman in 2016. Gunter then cooperated with Troy Police Department detectives who conducted a search warrant at the foster agency’s office on Nov. 23, 2016, to gather evidence from the agency’s computers and financial records.
“I’m sorry this happened,” Gunter told the court.
Gunter said he took full responsibility and said he was aware of the misappropriation of funds by his sister and then himself taking money out the agency’s accounts.
“It was my job. I could have said no,” Gunter said.
Miami County Assistant Prosecutor Paul Watkins said Gunter made many mistakes, but what stood out to him was after he had stolen funds, he reported himself and cooperated with authorities and the prosecutor’s office.
“In my 10-plus years, I’ve not seen a more remorseful defendant. He was open, upfront and honest about what he did,” Watkins said.
Watkins recommended community control to allow Gunter to repay the nonprofit.
Judge Wall said the case was unique due to Gunter’s cooperation, but noted Gunter abused his position of trust as the financial officer of Isaiah’s Place. She also said Gunter stole money from an already vulnerable group of foster children, using his education and access to financial records to bypass audits that would have exposed the thefts.
“You knew there were issues. It never stopped, you knew it was wrong,” Wall said.
Wall then credited Gunter for his cooperation “to fix this crime” and to “make right what was wrong.”
Judge Wall reserved 16 months in prison, ordered him to repay $34,912. 91, not to hold a job with financial access, serve 20 hours of community service and comply with the regular conditions of community control.
Around November 2016, it was reported the foster care agency had more than 100 children from 10 different counties in its care. The counties would pay Isaiah’s Place for their foster care services. According to reports, Gunter’s mother started the agency.
The Troy Police Department executed a search warrant to retrieve financial records on Nov. 23, 2016. Financial records were reviewed by the Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
According to the police investigation, Kelley Gunter used the organization’s funds to withdrawal large amounts of cash to spend at local casinos, paid a contractor for a home remodel project, items for her private pool, weight loss services, salon services up to $1,100 per visit, tanning, nail services, jewelry and clothing stores and cash advances. She reportedly spent up to $127,782 at casinos, including hotels, food and clothing.
The Gunters also purchased University of Dayton basketball tickets for $10,000, Bengals game tickets and vacations. Matthew Gunter admitted to using funds to purchase a home theater system and trips.
Isaiah’s Place has since replaced its board and is under a new executive director. According to its website, the agency currently serves 80 children from 15 counties.