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Agricultural News

Embezzlement Investigation Shows $2.6 Million Stolen by Former Employee of Oklahoma Beef Council

Thu, 05 Jan 2017 15:35:17 CST

Embezzlement Investigation Shows $2.6 Million Stolen by Former Employee of Oklahoma Beef Council The embezzlement investigation at the Oklahoma Beef Council continues- and the state beef checkoff group has released a statement this afternoon on the forsenic analysis to this point, revealing that $2.6 million dollars is involved over an eight year period.

Last September, Executive Director Heather Buckmaster released a statement revealing the apparent theft of money by an employee who was immediately terminated once wrong doing was discovered. The statement on September 21st signaled the start of what has developed into a lengthy investigation- "We recently became aware of employee wrongdoing at the Oklahoma Beef Council. We immediately terminated the employee and launched an internal investigation and engaged a third-party accounting firm to conduct a forensic analysis and assessment of our financial records. When our investigation revealed possible criminal activity by our employee, our legal counsel contacted the proper authorities and we are turning over information as they request."    

The statement released today signals that both criminal and civil charges are being pursued- and the Beef Council has acknowledged the length and the extent of the embezzlement in today's statement. Here is the statement as provided by the Oklahoma Beef Council's Buckmaster:

"In September 2016, the results of an internal investigation into potential Oklahoma Beef Council employee wrong-doing by a former employee, the director of Accounting and Compliance, were turned over to Federal authorities in Oklahoma.   At this point, due to an ongoing criminal case and civil matters, we are limited in the details we can share regarding this but what we can share are the actions taken by the Oklahoma Beef Council upon the discovery of it.

"When initial evidence was discovered, we immediately terminated the employee and hired an accounting firm to perform an extensive forensic analysis and assessment, which documented $2.6 million in employee theft between 2009-2016. The Oklahoma Beef Council provided this information to Federal authorities in September to ensure swift action could be taken. Our goal throughout this process has been to speed recovery and restitution to the greatest extent possible. The board of directors and staff have cooperated fully with Federal authorities as the investigation has moved forward.

"According to Tom Fanning, a cattleman and the Chairman of the Oklahoma Beef Council, "Our board and staff take great pride in serving beef producers in investing their Beef Checkoff dollars to grow and protect beef demand. Discovering you have a staff member that did not share that vision and abused our trust, has been a devastating blow to all of us. We have taken every step to address this matter to ensure we are following through in our responsibilities to Oklahoma beef producers and are awaiting the results of the criminal investigation."

"In the meantime, the OBC has taken the findings from the forensic analysis and assessment to strengthen our accounting systems and internal controls to ensure the integrity of the organization. We have moved forward in our operations with a third-party accounting firm to ensure an additional level of oversight and a greater level of segregation of duties. The OBC will be adding a new position to our team, Director of Compliance, to assist with checkoff compliance and outreach.

"We have taken what we have learned from this situation to create a stronger organization with a clear vision to moving forward in our mission of serving Oklahoma's farming and ranching families," says Tom Fanning."


Shortly after the release from the Oklahoma Beef Council, Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association President Charlie Swanson issued the following statement:

"OCA has received and reviewed the statement released today by the Oklahoma Beef Council. While we are shocked at the amount stolen, OCA remains firmly committed to the mission and purpose of the beef checkoff. The past and future success of promoting our product to consumers far outweighs the negative, criminal activity of one bad employee. We send our appreciation to the board members and staff for their fortitude and continued commitment to promote beef during this difficult time."

Editor's Note- I have covered the National Beef Checkoff since its inception in the 1980s- and I cannot remember any embezzlement of checkoff funds at either the national or state level. It appears that the case now under investigation is the first such theft of checkoff monies that has ever been discovered.



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