OKLAHOMA CITY – A former state employee is under investigation for allegedly stealing thousands in cash, seized by law enforcement, for years and using the money for personal use, according to newly unsealed court documents.
According to two search warrants unsealed Friday, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol started its investigation in October 2018 after it was made aware of money missing from the Department of Public Safety’s asset forfeiture division.
The warrants, filed under seal in Oklahoma County District Court in November, detail investigators found discrepancies in 11 civil asset forfeiture cases since January 2015, with missing money totaling more than $63,000. In an interview with investigators, the woman admitted to removing money “approximately 15 times” over that same time span, taking anywhere between $1,000-10,000 at a time.
News 4 is not naming the woman, as she has not been arrested or charged in the investigation.
Civil asset forfeiture has become a controversial topic over the past several years. Opponents have called it “policing for profit.” While law enforcement and prosecutors have said the seized cash – in the tune of millions each year in Oklahoma – supports crime fighting costs and offsets taxpayers burden.
But before the money can be turned over to law enforcement, or back to its owner, it has to be held for safekeeping.
Court filings say the woman served as the asset forfeiture coordinator for nearly two decades and was tasked with counting, filing and making deposits of seized assets. According to one of the search warrants, investigators found numerous pieces of OHP property, including documents, evidence reports and property receipts at her metro home.
Nearly a month after the OHP started its investigation, the woman was fired for “gross misconduct,” according to the termination letter obtained by News 4.
The OHP is not commenting on the matter, citing an ongoing investigation.