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Perrysburg Hts. Community Center survives scandal, COVID-19

 

By La Prensa Staff

 

A Wood County man will spend the next several years behind bars, convicted of using the Perrysburg Heights Community Center as his own method to fund a lavish lifestyle.

 

Jason Craig, 45, recently was moved to a state prison after being sentenced in late March. A jury convicted the former president of the Perrysburg Heights Community Center on all counts, including engaging in a pattern of corrupt activities, theft, and three counts of money laundering. A forensic audit revealed Craig stole more than $250,000 from the nonprofit organization.

 

Craig will serve a seven-year prison sentence for the corruption charge and three years for money laundering. Those prison terms will run concurrently. But he also faces five years of probation after his prison sentence is served and must pay back the stolen money to the community center. Craig filed an appeal to his conviction and sentence, which a judge denied.

 

Online records from the Ohio Dept. of Rehabilitation and Correction show Craig as housed at the state’s Correction Reception Center where he was transferred April 3 from the Wood County Justice Center. Transfers to state prisons have been slowed by the coronavirus pandemic, so it’s unclear when Craig will receive an assignment at a correctional center.

 

Craig’s troubles began in the summer of 2013, when he served as a community association board member and treasurer of the group. The board of trustees had just voted to oust Anita Sánchez-Serda, a fellow board member and one of the founders of the community center. Her daughter Stephanie Serda had been serving as executive director and was forced to resign under pressure.

 

That prompted a petition circulating door to door in Perrysburg Heights, yielding dozens of signatures from neighborhood residents, calling for Craig’s resignation. The petition alleged that Craig was not representing the best interests of the predominantly Latino neighborhood.

 

Instead, Craig later became board president in a revamped organizational structure. The Perrysburg Heights Community Center started suffering financial difficulties under Craig’s watch, while the organization’s main fundraiser, Ohio South of the Border Festival, had been running a deficit.

 

The controversy came to a head in August 2014, when a festival with high profile musical acts failed to occur. That’s when Craig was accused of bilking the organization of a quarter of a million dollars. The Ohio Attorney General’s Office began an investigation through its Charitable Law Section after Perrysburg Heights residents sent numerous letters seeking action.

 

A Wood County grand jury indicted Craig four years later, alleging he engaged in a pattern of corrupt activity over a three-year period, from 2012 to 2015. That was right in the middle of when Perrysburg Heights residents, including Ms. Sánchez-Serda, alleged the misdeeds.

 

The corruption indictment listed nearly a dozen separate instances of felonious actions, including depositing funds intended for the community association into his own private bank accounts. Other incidents accused Craig of withdrawing money from the community center’s bank account for his own personal use.

 

After Craig was removed as president of the Perrysburg Heights Community Association in 2015, he moved to Cleveland. He was arrested at his residence by the U.S. Marshal’s Service after the sealed indictment was issued in 2018. During his court proceedings, he asked for court-appointed defense counsel, claiming he was destitute.

 

The Perrysburg Heights Community Center survived the Craig corruption scandal and botched hip-hop concert, continuing to provide programs and services to the children and families of that neighborhood over the past several years, including homework help and a reading program.

 

But like many other nonprofits, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the center to close and only offer limited programming. Over the past two months, that has included a feeding program and food distribution, in partnership with the Islamic Food Bank of Toledo, Mom’s Mobile Mission and Perrysburg Schools.

 

EDITOR”S NOTE: La Prensa photo taken in 2013 when Craig allegedly had Anita Sánchez-Serda ousted from the board and Perrysburg Heights residents asking that Ms. Sánchez-Serda be reinstated.

 

 

 
Copyright © 1989 to 2020 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 05/26/20 16:05:29 -0700.

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