Officials charged in Anadarko, Minco, Chickasha, Duncan 6-20-07

By RON JENKINS
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP)
- A former Anadarko city official was arraigned on an embezzlement charge Wednesday in a case that is part of a wave of thefts linked to casino gambling problems by some officials in south-central Oklahoma, a prosecutor said.

One case involves money allegedly taken from proceeds of Chickasha's Festival of Light, a light show extravaganza held each year around the Christmas season.

The office of Auditor and Inspector Jeff McMahan is conducting investigative audits of money allegedly missing from the receipts of the towns of Anadarko and Minco.

The audits were requested by Bret Burns, district attorney for Grady, Stephens, Jefferson and Caddo Counties.

“We're seeing a tremendous increase in the number of embezzlements and 95 percent of it has to do with gambling casinos,” said Burns, appointed as district attorney last year by Gov. Brad Henry. “Our position is if you are taking public money from taxpayers, then be prepared to go to jail.”

Katrina Pickens was released on $50,000 bond on Wednesday after being arraigned in Anadarko on an embezzlement charge.

She is the former director of personnel and payroll for Anadarko, where two Indian casinos are located, Burns said.

In an affidavit, Anadarko Police David Edwards quoted Pickens as saying she was fired for altering city deposits.

“When I asked her what she did with the money she altered from the deposits, she told me it was used for personal gain and she developed a casino problem,” Edwards said in the affidavit.

“Pickens stated she was not taking money every day from the deposits, but it was pretty close. The most Pickens stated she took in one day was $9,000.”

Her next court appearance will be July 19.

Burns said the former city clerk of Minco, Sherri Bomgardner, also has been charged with felony embezzlement. Minco Mayor Kelly Rupp declined comment.

Burns said two women who were officials of private agencies in Duncan and Chickasha have been hit with charges after money turned up missing. One is Carole Scott, former president of the Duncan Chamber of Commerce.

“The chamber president in Duncan, just like Katrina Pickens, has admitted to a gambling problem,” the prosecutor said. He said Scott was scheduled to enter a plea in her case on Thursday in Duncan.

In Chickasha, charges have been filed against Angie Jeffries, whom Burns said was a former legislative candidate and an official with Chickasha's Festival of Light, held in late November and through December each year.

He said the charge against Jeffries alleges she took money from proceeds of the holiday event.

Burns said the auditor and inspector's office has been “a terrific asset” in the investigations in Anadarko and Minco.

“I think all public entities need to be concerned about employees who take in cash and make cash deposits developing a gambling problem,” the prosecutor said.
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