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Agricultural News

Melissa Morton Pleads Guilty in Embezzlement of Beef Checkoff Funds In Federal Court

Wed, 24 May 2017 16:08:34 CDT

Melissa Morton Pleads Guilty in Embezzlement of Beef Checkoff Funds In Federal Court The next step in the process of seeking closure in the embezzlement of $2.6 million dollars stolen by a former employee of the Oklahoma Beef Council happened on Wednesday afternoon in Federal Court in Oklahoma City. Melissa Morton plead guilty of the charges against her- and now awaits sentencing by the Court.

After her plea, the Oklahoma Beef Council Board of Directors issued the following statement:

"Melissa Morton, the former accounting and compliance director for the Oklahoma Beef Council, plead guilty today in federal court for embezzlement of Oklahoma beef checkoff funds over a seven-year period. This is a significant step towards bringing this criminal matter to conclusion and we are indebted to federal investigators and the US Attorney's Office of the Western District Oklahoma for the speed at which it has moved.

"We were told the process of a federal investigation could take a year to a year and a half so we are deeply appreciative of the rapid pace in which this case has progressed. We believe this has been partially due to the clarity and quality of the evidence we turned over to authorities from our internal investigation.

"The Oklahoma Beef Council was also awarded a judgment against Melissa Morton for $2.68 million in civil court on May 10, 2017. The Oklahoma Beef Council board of directors has been aggressively pursuing efforts on all fronts to maximize recovery, restitution, and justice and we continue to do so.

"This has been a tremendously complicated situation as it relates to the criminal and civil matters. We continue to be limited in the details we can share, but we anticipate a time when we can give a more complete accounting. The next step is the sentencing process and it is our understanding it will take a few months.      

"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.

"Throughout, we have never lost sight of our mission of serving Oklahoma's farming and ranching families through programs in beef promotion and education.   We can't emphasize enough the positive impacts of the Beef Checkoff on our industry are so much greater and encompasses far greater benefits than the wrong-doing of one individual."

Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays has covered this story since late last summer when the wrong doing was first discovered- among the stories along the way was the story that is available here from early January when the amount of the loss was revealed.

The only statement on the embezzlement case by the Cattlemen's Beef Board was obtained by Hays in early January- and the comments on the case from Polly Ruhland can be read by clicking here.

The agricultural community has supported the Beef Council Board and the staff- their statement from that same time can be read by clicking here.



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