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Former Oklahoma Beef Council employee charged with wrongdoingFormer Oklahoma Beef Council employee charged with wrongdoing

Next step will involve a hearing with plea entered by defendant who embezzled $2.68 million over seven-year period.

Jacqui Fatka

May 10, 2017

2 Min Read
Former Oklahoma Beef Council employee charged with wrongdoing

Melissa Morton, the former accounting and compliance director for the Oklahoma Beef Council, was charged May 10 by the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Western District of Oklahoma with embezzling $2.68 million from the Oklahoma Beef Council over a seven-year period.

In a statement, the Oklahoma Beef Council said, “We are grateful for the swift action of federal investigators and the U.S. Attorney's Office.”

When initial evidence of the crime was discovered, the council notified oversight authorities of the intent to begin an internal investigation, terminated the employee and hired an accounting firm to perform an extensive forensic analysis and assessment. “We informed local authorities of the matter as the internal investigation was nearing completion. The case was quickly shifted to federal authorities, and we have cooperated fully with investigators on the case,” the statement noted.

“This has been an extremely complex situation. We have appreciated the patience and support of Oklahoma's beef producers as it has progressed,” the Oklahoma Beef Council said. "We are limited in the details we can share and continue to be so due to ongoing criminal and civil matters. It is our understanding the next step will involve a hearing with a plea entered by the defendant."

The Oklahoma Beef Council said it has strengthened its internal controls to ensure the integrity of its accounting systems. “We have also engaged a third-party firm for accounting services to provide an additional level of oversight,” the council added.

According to Tom Fanning, a cattle producer and chairman of the Oklahoma Beef Council, "it is important to know, since we turned this situation over to authorities, one of our overriding goals has been to work towards justice for our organization and the farming and ranching community we serve. Today's charges are a major move forward towards reaching that goal. We will continue to keep Oklahoma's beef producers apprised of the situation as it proceeds."

About the Author(s)

Jacqui Fatka

Policy editor, Farm Futures

Jacqui Fatka grew up on a diversified livestock and grain farm in southwest Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications, with a minor in agriculture education, in 2003. She’s been writing for agricultural audiences ever since. In college, she interned with Wallaces Farmer and cultivated her love of ag policy during an internship with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, working in Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Capitol Hill press office. In 2003, she started full time for Farm Progress companies’ state and regional publications as the e-content editor, and became Farm Futures’ policy editor in 2004. A few years later, she began covering grain and biofuels markets for the weekly newspaper Feedstuffs. As the current policy editor for Farm Progress, she covers the ongoing developments in ag policy, trade, regulations and court rulings. Fatka also serves as the interim executive secretary-treasurer for the North American Agricultural Journalists. She lives on a small acreage in central Ohio with her husband and three children.

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