TRYON, Okla. (KFOR) – A former Tryon police chief and two other city officials are now charged with embezzlement and conspiracy, after allegedly pocketing nearly $80,000 in funds meant for payroll. The former chief is also being accused of using town funds for personal use and cashing out on dollars meant for the police station.
The crimes allegedly happened from 2013 to 2019.
“To get these figures, it couldn’t have been accidental,” said District Attorney Allan Grubb, while only speaking on generalities.
Former Police Chief Jered Prickett, his wife, former Clerk-Treasurer Candace Prickett, and former Court Clerk Jessica Turpin are accused of embezzling $79,320 in payroll dollars.
“This amount that is missing in this case is a significant chunk of that city’s budget,” said Grubb.
According to a 2022 Special Investigative Audit by the State Auditor and Investigator, Cindy Byrd, the trio allegedly fudged the numbers on holiday, vacation and overtime pay as well as excess salary.
The three are also former city utility workers. Investigators said “all three employees were also improperly paid “hazard pay,” asserting that eight additional hours of pay could be claimed anytime they worked on the sewer system regardless of the actual number of hours worked.”
“It’s always good when you have citizens involved in local government because they’re able to help watch taxpayer money and how it’s spent,” said Grubb.
Former Chief Prickett is in more hot water than the other two suspects.
The 47-year-old is accused of spending $3,776.37 in “questionable credit card expenditures.” Those purchases allegedly consist of things like gas, guns, food, medical care and deer hunting supplies.
Prickett is also accused of using town funds to purchase six guns for $3,330.40. The firearms were not part of the town’s inventory.
The former chief is also accused of depositing donated checks totaling $3,960 into his own bank account or cashing them out. Investigators also embezzled $4,866.50 from the Police Auxiliary account and ATM withdrawals. Six of the withdrawals allegedly happened at local casinos.
In his resignation letter, provided in the investigative audit, Prickett writes in part “I have no excuses for the things that have happened. I violated your trust in me and for that I hold myself accountable.”
“In general embezzlement cases, our primary intent is to make sure that we get the taxpayers paid back and to make sure that the people who commit these types of crimes have something on their record to make sure that they’re don’t get an opportunity to commit these types of crimes again,” said Grubb.
State Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd issued the following statement to KFOR:
“The Tryon Town Board of Trustees requested an investigative audit after they realized they did not have sufficient funds to meet the town’s financial obligations. Their bank account was overdrawn by $8,000.
Our findings of mismanagement can be traced to one root cause: lack of oversight.
The Board of Trustees did not fully perform their fiduciary duties and our office was only brought in after it become a crisis.
Proper oversight from the beginning could have prevented this from happening in the first place.”CINDY BYRD, STATE AUDITOR AND INSPECTOR
News 4 reached out to Candace Prickett and Jessica Turpin who both declined to comment.
We were unable to reach Jered Prickett.