Ex-Nebraska State Fair finance chief charged with theft

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (AP) — The former chief of finance for the Nebraska State Fair has been charged with theft following an investigation into staggering losses reported last year.

Patrick Kopke, 29, of Grand Island, was charged Monday in Hall County with three counts of theft of more than $5,000, according to online court record.

Earlier this year, the Nebraska State Fair Board hired a forensic investigation firm to look into the fair’s finances after staff discovered suspicious activity during an internal review.

The fair board learned at a Nov. 22 meeting that the 2019 fair lost a projected $1.4 million. Kopke resigned at that meeting after telling the board that changes were needed to avoid bankruptcy. Eight fair employees lost their jobs in December as officials took steps to firm up finances after the 2019 loss.

Fair staffers discovered irregularities on Feb. 24, and the state auditor, the state attorney general's office and the Nebraska State Patrol were all contacted.

Kopke is scheduled to be arraigned on Sept. 9. No attorney was listed for Kopke in online court records, and he did not immediately return a phone message left Wednesday.

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