Audit finds nearly $15,000 in missing forfeiture funds from Oklahoma DA

Tuesday, June 13th 2006, 10:02 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A prosecutor whose office has been rattled by the indictments of present and former employees has contacted the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation about the findings of a state audit.

The report, released on Monday, showed $14,723 is missing from a property forfeiture fund maintained by District Attorney Richard Gray's office.

Of that amount, $9,891 is missing from three Adair County cases, $1,478 missing from five Cherokee County cases, $1,298 missing from three Sequoyah County cases and $2,056 missing from a Wagoner County case, the report found.

The sheriffs' offices didn't turn forfeited cash over to the district attorney's office in several of those court cases, Gray said in a letter to state Auditor and Inspector Jeff McMahan.

``I have contacted the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation,'' Gray wrote.

The state multicounty grand jury is investigating Gray and members of his office, but so far, Gray hasn't been indicted for any wrongdoing.

Former assistant district attorney Janet Bickel, who worked in Cherokee and Muskogee counties, was indicted on a charge of methamphetamine possession and offering false evidence. Office administrator Vyrl Keeter is charged with attempting to persuade a grand jury witness to give false testimony.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash seizures were reviewed by the audit, which covered July 1, 2003, through June 30, Gray said.

``Your audit has provided great insight as to manners and methods of operation, confirming the validity and utility of our documentation process, but also identifying areas of forfeiture procedure to improve record keeping tasks within my four county district,'' Gray wrote.

Auditors found eight cases in which officers deposited a total of $1,698 more than amounts they reported as having been forfeited.

McMahan said Gray's office isn't the only Oklahoma district attorney's office doing a poor job of accounting for property forfeiture funds.

``We're seeing these same problems wherever we go,'' he said.