SYCAMORE, Ohio (TheBlaze/AP) — An 18-year-old posing as a state senator toured a high school and spoke to a class, and school officials didn’t realize he fooled them until weeks later, authorities in Ohio said.
Mohawk Local School District officials said Izaha Akins, of Marion, Ohio, visited the high school in December and claimed to be a lawmaker replacing another senator. They realized they’d been duped when Republican Sen. David Burke, of Marysville, showed up to speak weeks later, as scheduled.
Burke said in an email Friday that when he learned about the hoax, he and the school immediately began working with law enforcement. He said, “This was an extremely elaborate scheme and not as simple as walking through the door.”
The Blade newspaper of Toledo reported that Akins said he was making a point about school security in small communities. He was charged recently with felony counts of telecommunications fraud and impersonating a peace officer.
“These country schools think it can’t happen to them,” Akins told The Blade in a brief interview. He said he wanted to “prove a point — that these kinds of things can happen. They could easily have Googled me, and they didn’t.”
School officials say Akins knew that Burke was scheduled to speak to a class Jan. 14, and called to bill himself as Burke’s replacement as senator and available to speak earlier. He arranged to visit Dec. 15, provided his real name, presented his driver’s license at the school that afternoon, got a tour of the school from the principal, then gave his presentation and left, Mohawk Schools Superintendent Ken Ratliff said.
“The presentation was about being active in politics, political processes,” Ratliff said. “Everyone thought it was legit; bought into it, including the teacher.”
The Blade reported that Akins had called the teacher, Henry Stobbs, to announce not only that Burke was ill but also that he had resigned — and that Atkins had been appointed to his spot.
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Mr. Ratliff said Mr. Stobbs is “very sharp,” and a veteran teacher, who initially wondered why he hadn’t read in the newspaper about Senator Burke’s illness but was convinced by the caller.
He said the chagrined teacher dropped his skepticism after Mr. Akins said that he was second in line for the appointment after the first choice had declined. He told the teacher he was the youngest state senator ever.
“Mr. Stobbs said that nothing he heard there made him think this guy didn’t know what he was doing,” Mr. Ratliff said about the class presentation.
In his call, he said he wanted to move the visit up to Dec. 15. A person claiming to be his aide called Wyandot County Sheriff Mike Hetzel to request an escort to the high school. The sheriff agreed to do so, setting an appointment for him to come to the sheriff’s office, but it turned out to be several days after Mr. Akins’ actual visit.
Authorities said Reineke Ford provided a car and driver for the day to the supposed legislator. The Blade said Reineke Motors general manager Tony Flood said it’s not unusual for the dealership to help the nearby school district.
Wyandot County Sheriff Mike Hetzel said no one at the school was in any danger, and a sheriff’s deputy was at the school during the time of the visit.
Ratliff said, though, that the district now takes extra steps to verify visitors’ identities.