A former Akron fire union treasurer recently released from prison for stealing from the union is facing new charges for tax offenses related to the theft.

Joseph Ruhlin, 42, of Akron, pleaded not guilty Wednesday during his arraignment in Summit County Common Pleas Court to 11 new felony charges. He is free on a personal recognizance bond.

Ruhlin was released from prison this month after serving about six months of a two-year sentence. He stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from his union to bankroll a lavish lifestyle.

Ruhlin was arrested in March 2017 in North Carolina after fleeing the Akron area when theft charges were filed against him.

From January 2011 until he was caught, he siphoned money from union dues that he was responsible for depositing. He spent the money on items ranging from a down payment on an in-ground pool to tickets to sporting events to trips to Disney World and Kalahari in Sandusky.

To replenish the funds he was taking and continue paying the union’s expenses, Ruhlin took out high-interest loans.

Ruhlin pleaded guilty last January to third-degree felonies of theft in office and tampering with records. Judge Alison Breaux sentenced him in June to two years on each charge — to be served concurrently — and ordered him to repay $385,000 to the Akron Fire Fighters Local 330.

The union received $100,000 through insurance, and Ruhlin surrendered his pension and retirement funds to help pay the restitution.

Breaux granted Ruhlin an early release Jan. 9 on the condition that he serve five years of probation with several conditions, including that he get a job, have a payment plan in place within 30 days, and have no contact with any Akron fire union members. Ruhlin still owes $195,000 in restitution, according to court documents.

Ruhlin is now facing six counts of filing incomplete, false and fraudulent returns, and five counts of telecommunications fraud related to the filing of the returns. The charges are fifth-degree felonies.

Prosecutors say the latest charges are tied to Ruhlin’s theft from the union. They say the Ohio Department of Taxation took a look at the issue and then brought it to the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office, which resulted in the new charges.

Erik Jones, Ruhlin’s attorney, said he doesn’t yet know enough about the new charges to discuss them.

“I don’t know what the factual basis is for the new indictment,” Jones said. “I can’t comment until the opportunity is provided for discovery and to review it.”

Ruhlin’s next court appearance will be at a pretrial before Breaux at 8:30 a.m. Feb. 26.

 

Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705, swarsmith@thebeaconjournal.com and on Twitter: @swarsmithabj.