Case Update: Former Head of Lancaster County Drug Task Force Pleads Guilty to Theft

March 8, 2023 | Topic: Criminal

Defendant Stole $171K over Five Years from County Drug Task Force

HARRISBURG – Attorney General Michelle Henry today announced that John Burkhart, the former Officer in Charge of the Lancaster County Drug Task Force, pleaded guilty to charges regarding thefts of approximately $171K of forfeited funds between 2015 and 2020. 

Investigators from the Office of Attorney General determined that Burkhart stole seized cash, failed to deposit funds, and falsified deposit records during the civil asset forfeiture process in criminal cases investigated by the Lancaster County Drug Task Force. 

“Mr. Burkhart broke the law and violated public trust when he stole forfeited resources from Lancaster County to line his own pocket,” Attorney General Henry said. “This guilty plea closes a painful chapter for Lancaster County and is a reminder that our office will be tenacious in holding anyone who violates public trust and breaks the law accountable – regardless of their occupation or rank.”

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 finding 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 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. Funds seized were turned over to the County by the bank and the Controller’s office would 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 thousands of dollars from 2015 through 2020.

John Burkhart pleaded guilty to Theft by Deception and Theft by Failure to Make Required Disposition of Funds.

This case is being prosecuted by Senior Deputy Attorney General Megan Madaffari. The defendant will be sentenced at a later date. 

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