Former Oklahoma Beef Council employee pleads guilty in embezzlement case

by MEAT+POULTRY Staff
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OKLAHOMA CITY –  Melissa Day Morton, a former accountant for the Oklahoma Beef Council, pleaded guilty to embezzling $2.6 million from the organization. According to a court record release, the former employee was arrested for bank fraud and filing a false federal income tax return.

As part of the agreement, Morton admitted that she embezzled funds from the Oklahoma Beef Council from 2009 to 2016. This included preparing unauthorized company checks made payable to herself.  Morton also admitted that she forged the signature of the Beef Council’s executive director on the check and later presented that check for payment against the Beef Council’s bank account at a local bank.

With that deal, prosecutors will not pursue any other charges against Morton. 

From October 1995 until late July 2016, Morton worked as the Accounting and Compliance Manager at the Oklahoma Beef Council in Oklahoma City.

The Oklahoma Beef Council released a statement regarding the ruling:

“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 statement said.

“The next step is the sentencing process.  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. “

At sentencing, Morton faces up to 30 years in prison on the bank fraud count, plus five years of supervised release, and a $1,000,000 fine. Morton also faces up to three years in prison on the tax count, in addition to one year of supervised release, a $250,000 fine, and restitution to the Internal Revenue Service for the tax loss.

Morton will be sentenced in approximately 90 days.

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