AG Shapiro Charges Former Head of Lancaster County Drug Task Force With Theft

March 15, 2022 | Topic: Criminal

Defendant Alleged to Have Stolen $200K over Five Years from County Drug Task Force

HARRISBURG – Attorney General Josh Shapiro and the Forty-Ninth Statewide Investigating Grand Jury today announced charges against John Burkhart, the former Officer in Charge of the Lancaster County Drug Task Force, for stealing more than $200K from the Task Force from 2015 to 2020, and depositing at least $170K into his personal bank account. Defendant was arrested and preliminarily arraigned before Magisterial District Judge Bruce A. Roth.

“Mr. Burkhart abused his position of public trust to scam and defraud the citizens of Lancaster County and the Lancaster County Drug Task Force out of desperately needed funds,” said AG Shapiro. “These funds should have been used to help law enforcement in Lancaster County battle the opioid epidemic. Instead, this money went into John Burkhart’s pocket. Enforcing the law does not put you above it. Public officials have a special responsibility to serve the people with integrity, and my office will continue to hold anyone who breaks the law, no matter how powerful or well-connected, accountable for their actions.”

The Office of Attorney General assumed jurisdiction over the case in April 2020 following a conflict referral from the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office. On March 4, 2022, the Forty-Ninth Statewide Investigating Grand Jury issued a presentment and determined that from at least 2015 through 2020, Burkhart repeatedly stole money that had been seized during drug investigations using two separate schemes.

First, Burkhart stole approximately $150,000 in seized cash from the Lancaster County Drug Task Force safe where seized money was stored before it was formally forfeited and placed into the Lancaster County general fund bank account for use by the Task Force. The Grand Jury learned that Burkhart had nearly exclusive control of the safe and its contents.

During the investigation, it was discovered that evidence envelopes containing seized cash were missing, which included funds seized from bank accounts. When a bank account was seized by the Drug Task Force, the procedure was for the bank to send a check to the Drug Task Force, and the check would be deposited into Lancaster County’s general fund account. The Controller’s office would then provide a check to the Drug Task Force in care of John Burkhart. Burkhart was solely responsible for cashing those checks and placing the money into the safe until they were forfeited by court order.

Second, the Grand Jury found that Burkhart was also solely responsible for recording and delivering cash deposits from the Drug Task Force to the county treasurer after the seized assets were forfeited by court order. Burkhart recorded false deposit amounts before they could be recorded by the treasurer and skimmed approximately $50,000 from 2015 through 2020.

The Forty-Ninth Statewide Investigating Grand Jury recommended the following charges: Theft by Unlawful Taking or Disposition, Theft by Deception, Theft by Failure to Make Required Disposition of Funds, Forgery, Tampering with Records or Identification, and Tampering with or Fabricating Physical Evidence.

This case is being prosecuted by Senior Deputy Attorney General Megan Madaffari. All charges discussed are accusations. The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

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