Former Leetonia police chief emotional during sentencing for cha - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Former Leetonia police chief emotional during sentencing for charity theft

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LISBON, Ohio -

An emotional day in a Columbiana County courtroom as a former police chief is handcuffed and headed to prison.

The former Leetonia Police Chief was sentenced on a felony charge of theft in office.

Family and friends of 53-year-old John Soldano filled the courtroom as he told the judge he took full responsibility for his actions.

Through tear-filled eyes, Soldano said, "I own this whole thing.  I'll take the responsibility for everything that's been done.  I've embarrassed myself.  My family."  Soldano then paused for a moment to compose himself.  Then he continued saying, "I would like to apologize to the good people of Leetonia, who I let down.  They're like family to me.  I love them.  I help them."

Soldano then sat down and wiped his eyes.  

He pled guilty back in April to theft in office for stealing $14,200.  Some of the money was meant for low-income families at Christmas time.  

Soldano was indicted in May of 2017 on the third-degree felony count after the Auditor of State's Public Integrity Assurance Team determined he wrote 21 checks to himself from two accounts he operated without the fiscal officer's knowledge.

At least some of those funds came from the police department's Care and Share Program, which helps families in need during the holidays.

Soldano's Attorney Bruce Williams told visiting Judge Virgil Sinclair his client has tried right his wrong before he was ever charged, "He has taken full responsibility from the beginning.  Long before any charges, he had made substantial restitution."

Several character witnesses testified, saying they realize Soldano made a mistake but they don't believe that takes away from the good he's done.

And while the prosecutor says she believes Soldano is sincere about being remorseful, she says it doesn't change the fact that he was in a position of trust.

Prosecutor Megan Bickerton told the judge, "I believe that he betrayed that trust of those people, people that he himself cared for."

Following the state's recommendation the Judge Sinclair sentenced Soldano to 9-months in prison, court costs, restitution in the amount of $4,817.50 (the audit discovered the crime).

Soldano kissed his wife before he was handcuffed and taken away to begin serving his time.

Neither Soldano or the prosecutors ever identified why he stole the money from the charity fund. 

Soldano served as Leetonia's Police Chief from 1997 to 2015. 

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