Woollard makes restitution for BCARL theft

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Jennifer Woollard, former director of the Belmont County Animal Rescue League, saw her felony grand theft charges dismissed when she appeared before Belmont County Common Pleas Judge John Vavra on Monday to report making full restitution, but her misdemeanor theft conviction will stand.

Woollard was charged in June 2021. The theft took place in 2020.

In February 2020, BCARL filed a report with the sheriff’s office after noticing “inconsistencies” in its books. That was the week after BCARL announced it was not renewing Woollard’s contract. She had been with the nonprofit for six years as the executive director and a humane agent.

“She actually entered a plea of guilty to a felony and a misdemeanor, and if she made restitution in full, then the felony would be dismissed, but she’ll still have the misdemeanor conviction on her record,” Belmont County Prosecutor Kevin Flanagan said.

“They were both theft offenses, and they were both from the same incident, so the reason for the felony was unless she did not make the restitution amount as the state of Ohio put forward, and she has made that restitution amount.”

Flanagan said Woollard, 49, with an address of 126 Woodrow Avenue, St. Clairsville according to court records, repaid $32,000 for BCARL.

“We had calculated as far as owed to BCARL,” Flanagan said. “We actually met with BCARL personnel in order to make sure that this is what they wanted to do, and again, getting full restitution was paramount. … Ultimately, we felt that money was misappropriated so with our discussions with BCARL we felt that getting the misappropriated funds returned to BCARL to be paramount.

“It came to the attention of law enforcement after BCARL had noticed the Belmont County Sheriff’s Department that they felt there was a misappropriation of funds, and with that, the sheriff’s department commenced an investigation and found that funds were diverted to accounts other than that of BCARL,” Flanagan said. “We don’t believe that the money misappropriated was done so for the best interest of BCARL. … Not only did we proceed with a felony charge, but we also demanded full restitution.”

MaryEllen Gust, member of BCARL’s board of directors, released a statement via email.

“We were deeply disappointed and saddened by the financial inconsistencies we discovered during Mrs. Woollard’s tenure, but we have long-since turned that page. We cooperated fully with authorities and have simply been waiting for the court system to give due process,” she wrote.

“After Mrs. Woollard’s departure, our board of directors carefully reviewed our processes and procedures and are confident in the safeguards we currently have in place. As for the restitution paid by Mrs. Woollard, it will go back into our general fund.

“BCARL recently announced that we will no longer be providing humane officer services for the county; however, we continue to exist as a non-profit dedicated to helping Belmont County animals and their owners. Our board is currently discussing which programs we will continue into the future.”

BCARL is active on Facebook and on the web site www.bcarl.net.


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