In news reports today from the Sooner State, a former Oklahoma Beef Council accountant has been charged in federal court for allegedly stealing more than $2.6 million from the non-profit organization over a seven-year period.
Melissa Day Morton, 45, was charged with two counts of bank fraud and false federal income tax return Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Oklahoma City.
According to legal documents, Morton forged 790 unauthorized checks, drawing money from business accounts at the Bank of Oklahoma into her personal account.
NewsOk reports that Morton allegedly used the stolen money to fund a children’s clothing boutique she opened with her family.
The Oklahoma Beef Council said this in their formal statement:
“When initial evidence of the crime was discovered, we notified oversight authorities of the intent to begin an internal investigation, terminated the employee, and hired an accounting firm to perform an extensive forensic analysis and assessment. We informed local authorities of the matter as the internal investigation was nearing completion. The case was quickly shifted to federal authorities and we have cooperated fully with investigators on the case.
“This has been an extremely complex situation. We have appreciated the patience and support of Oklahoma’s beef producers as it has progressed. We are limited in the details we can share and continue to be so due to on-going criminal and civil matters. It is our understanding the next step will involve a hearing with a plea entered by the defendant.
“What we can share is the Oklahoma Beef Council has strengthened our internal controls to ensure the integrity of our accounting systems. We have also engaged a third-party firm for accounting services to provide an additional level of oversight.
“According to Tom Fanning, a cattleman and the chairman of the Oklahoma Beef Council, ‘it is important to know since we turned this situation over to authorities, one of our overriding goals has been to work towards justice for our organization and the farming and ranching community we serve. Today’s charges are a major move forward towards reaching that goal. We will continue to keep Oklahoma’s beef producers apprised of the situation as it proceeds.'”