Former OC professor accused of stealing from grants

A former Oberlin College professor has been indicted with counts of theft of federal grant money and conspiracy.

Robert Roche, 70, is accused of stealing money from the American Indian Education Center in Cleveland, where he is the executive director.

The indictment says he worked with Craig McGuire of McGuire & Associates to embezzle roughly $184,000 between October 2011 and March 2013.

The money came from a Circle of Care grant awarded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a federal agency that provides mental health programs.

The indictment said the grant application contained false statements about the American Indian Education Center: that it had an after-school program that served about 500 children, and a wellness department that provided services to youth and families.

Roche allegedly misled the mental health agency about who was employed by the center as well as a description of its building, the indictment said.

About $47,000 was funneled out of the grant and into Roches’ pockets in the first year, the court documents said. Another $30,000 disappeared the second year before grant payments stopped when the American Indian Education Center was placed under a “high-risk” status.

“Mr. Roche took tens of thousands of dollars earmarked for Native American children and families and put the money in his own pockets,” U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman said in a prepared statement.

Roche is scheduled to be arraigned Friday before District Court Judge Donald Nugent.

McGuire pleaded guilty to several related counts in April and will be sentenced Sept. 21.

Roche has a long history of activism in Oberlin and Northeast Ohio.

He is known for opposing the Cleveland Indians Chief Wahoo mascot as a racist symbol. He was vocal in the debate that led to the removal of the Oberlin Indians high school athletic mascot, and recently spoke in favor of changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day at a city council meeting.

At Oberlin College, he previously taught history classes on Native American affairs.

Laurie Hamame can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @HamameNews on Twitter.

By Laurie Hamame