Last month, students planning a class trip to Cozumel, Mexico, to celebrate graduation discovered that at least $20,000 they had raised for the senior trip was missing from the account. The students had raised the money for the trip by working at the concession stand during Arapaho-Butler High School basketball games.
School officials say the account was not a part of school funds, and that the school did not have oversight of the account. The suspect in the case, they say, is not a school employee, but rather another adult with access to the account.
Custer County Sheriff's deputies say that the adult made several ATM withdrawals from the account and withheld money from deposits. They believe at least $20,000 was stolen from the funds raised for the senior class trip. According to Custer County Sheriff Bruce Peoples, when the agency presented its findings to the district attorney's office, "it was apparent [the case] would need forensic type auditors to do a fuller investigation.” The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) has taken over the investigation.
As of this writing, the suspect has not been named and no one has been arrested or charged in the case. However, investigators say they have surveillance video showing the suspect making several ATM withdrawals from the account.
Under Oklahoma law, embezzlement--taking or misappropriating property or funds to which one is entrusted--is prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the value of the property involved.
- Embezzlement of less than $500 is a misdemeanor. Embezzlement of $500 or more is a felony.
- Embezzlement of less than $1000 is punishable by a maximum of one year in jail, regardless of whether it is prosecuted as a felony ($500 to less than $1000) or misdemeanor (less than $500).
- Embezzlement of $1000 to less than $25,000 is punishable by a maximum of 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
- Embezzlement of $25,000 or more is punishable by a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, and restitution to the victim.
After the money was discovered to be missing, the students held a fundraiser dinner to try to replenish the missing funds and save the class trip. Superintendent Jay Edelen says the community "stepped up" for the seniors, and that the trip is back on.
Image credit: 401(K) 2012