Sunday, February 15, 2015

Oklahoma Woman Charged With Embezzling $470K From Police Unions

From Tulsa World on 2/112/2015:

The former longtime treasurer of the state and Tulsa Fraternal Orders of Police was charged Wednesday with embezzling $470,000 from the two organizations.

Lorna Jean Vanlandingham, 71, is charged in Tulsa federal court with two counts of wire fraud. She is accused of stealing $403,126.98 from the Tulsa Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 93 and $67,278.53 from the Oklahoma State Fraternal Order of Police over a four-year period.
Clay Ballenger, Tulsa FOP president, said Vanlandingham was immediately removed as treasurer when the organization discovered in April 2014 what it believed were “misappropriations of funds.” The local FOP quickly filed a report with the Tulsa Police Department and notified the state FOP, Ballenger said.

“It was just under the course of normal business,” Ballenger said, noting that the board of directors routinely looks at expenses. “We just noticed some things that didn’t quite seem right and started asking questions.”
The investigation ultimately was turned over to the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice.
Ballenger estimated that Vanlandingham, who goes by Jean, had been treasurer for around 15 or 20 years. Tulsa World archives indicate that she was the group’s treasurer in 1995.
Ballenger said she retired from the Tulsa Police Department in 2003.
He doesn’t think anyone else was involved in the embezzlement, he said.
“It was a surprise and a shock to us and our members,” he said. “She was a trusted officer of our organization. As police officers, you want to trust each other.”
Ron Bartmier, president of the state FOP, said that organization also found misappropriations and that Vanlandingham was “relieved of her duties” at that time. He estimated that Vanlandingham had served as its treasurer for 15 years.
The Tulsa FOP embezzlement began first, according to the informational filing. Prosecutors allege that Vanlandingham, on or before Jan. 5, 2010, began to make transfers from the local FOP’s bank accounts on behalf of the organization but actually used the money for her own purposes.
Prosecutors allege that a few months later she began defrauding the state FOP, as well. The court documents contend that Vanlandingham, on or before April 6, 2010, began obtaining state FOP funds by writing checks and making other transfers on behalf of the organization but again used the proceeds for her own purposes.
Both schemes continued until late April of last year, the documents indicate.
According to a July 1995 Tulsa World article, Vanlandingham was the ninth female officer hired by the Tulsa Police Department. She said she chose to become a police officer at 34 years old, beginning her career in 1978. She said hiring female officers was uncommon, with women having to prove themselves more back then.
“Being an officer was something I had always wanted to do, but my priorities had been raising my family and completing my education,” Vanlandingham said at the time.
The article also stated she was the “treasurer and chief cook” for the Tulsa FOP.
Ballenger said the Tulsa FOP can sympathize with the victims its officers encounter every day because it, too, has fallen prey to a crime. He said the group and its members are cooperating with investigators and seeking justice.
“We want the full extent of justice to be served,” he said.

Update (2/23/15): VanLandingham has pleaded not guilty to the charges.  Read an update of the story here.

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