Vince Frustaci, 38, of Canton, pleaded guilty to charges of theft and conspiracy following a federal investigation that was prompted by a state audit last year, which found a bank account held by the Stark County Treasurer's Office was short nearly $3 million.
Federal prosecutors said Frustaci and the county's chief teller, who is now deceased, began stealing money from the county in 2003.
In a statement, Frustaci said that he took the money to feed his gambling habit and lost it all.
"I knew that some day I would get caught, but by trying to recoup my gambling losses I simply made this worse," Frustaci noted. "My plea of guilty ... will result in a lengthy prison term and I will be attempting to pay restitution for the rest of my life."
The scheme unraveled in March, 2009 when state auditors began a routine review of the county's finances while Frustaci was on vacation, authorities said. Frustaci tried to get auditors to hold off on the review until he returned, but they refused.
When he returned, Frustaci initially admitted taking between $100,000 and $200,000 of county funds when confronted with the $2.9 million discrepancy, State Auditor Mary Taylor noted in a special audit of Stark County issued today.
County Treasurer Gary Zeigler fired Frustaci on April 1, 2009, according to the audit.
The state determined the First Merit Bank account was missing a total of $2.95 million, including $230,000 in checks that Frustaci said was intended for undercover drug buys.
Instead, prosecutors said, Frustaci placed the money in a cardboard box and took the cash home.