Former Head of Lancaster County Drug Task Force Jailed, Ordered to Pay Back $140K in Stolen Funds

May 4, 2023 | Topic: Criminal

The Defendant, a Former Police Officer, Admitted to Stealing Seized Funds

HARRISBURG – Attorney General Michelle Henry announced today that the former Officer in Charge of the Lancaster County Drug Task Force was sentenced to 8 to 22 months in prison for stealing funds seized by the agency between 2014 and 2020.

As part of sentence, John Burkhart will also serve four years of probation and was ordered to pay back $140,000 in restitution owed.

Burkhart was taken into custody after the sentencing hearing in Lancaster County Court. He will serve the prison term in Adams County.

Burkhart pleaded guilty in March to charges of Theft by Deception and Theft by Failure to Make Required Disposition of Funds.

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

“Mr. Burkhart took an oath to serve and protect, but instead used his position of authority to steal funds that could have gone toward treatment initiatives and enforcement of drug trafficking laws,” Attorney General Michelle Henry said. “I hope today’s sentence is a stern reminder that our office is committed to holding those accountable who break the law – regardless of their occupation or position of authority.”

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 outlining that Burkhart repeatedly stole money that had been seized during drug investigations.

Burkhart stole 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. 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 county 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.

The Grand Jury also 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.

This case was prosecuted by Chief Deputy Attorney General Brian Zarallo and Senior Deputy Attorney General Megan Madaffari.

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