Ex-Columbus Zoo Worker Admits Guilt in Extensive Fraud Probe – WHIO TV 7 and WHIO Radio

Former Columbus Zoo Purchasing Agent Pleads Guilty to Fraud Charges

Former Columbus Zoo Purchasing Agent Pleads Guilty to Fraud Charges

COLUMBUS — Tracy Murnane, a former purchasing agent for the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, has pleaded guilty to multiple felony and misdemeanor charges in connection to a fraud investigation at the zoo, according to Auditor of State Keith Faber.

Murnane, 65, of Westerville, entered his guilty plea on July 2 to charges including grand theft, complicity in the commission of theft of a motor vehicle, forgery, telecommunications fraud, and filing incomplete, false, and fraudulent tax returns. He also pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges.

This comes after Murnane was initially charged on May 23, making him the fourth Columbus Zoo employee to face criminal charges related to theft offenses as part of the ongoing fraud investigation by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

The investigation, which began in April 2021, revealed that Columbus Zoo executives had misused zoo funds for personal expenses such as vacations, vehicles, concerts, and sporting events over a span of ten years.

Court documents indicate that Murnane used his position as a zoo purchaser to sell services from his family’s business to the zoo, facilitated the sale of personal cars using a straw seller, and helped former zoo CEO Tom Stalf use zoo funds to purchase a vehicle for personal use.

In September 2023, Stalf, along with former Chief Financial Officer Greg Bell and former Director of Marketing Pete Fungerhut, were indicted for allegedly stealing over $2.29 million in public funds for their own benefit. Bell and Fungerhut have since pleaded guilty to their charges.

Murnane submitted his guilty pleas during a hearing in Delaware County Common Pleas Court and is awaiting sentencing. The case serves as a stark reminder of the consequences of financial misconduct and the importance of accountability in public institutions.