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Embezzlement charges filed in theft of Oklahoma Highway Patrol funds

The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety headquarters in Oklahoma City, Okla., on Tuesday, April 17, 2018. [MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World file]
The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety headquarters in Oklahoma City, Okla., on Tuesday, April 17, 2018. [MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World file]

A former state employee has been charged with embezzling more than $23,000 from the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

Stephanie Ware, 52, called herself a “typical thief” as she confessed to stealing funds that the Special Operations Division had seized, according to a court affidavit. She told Highway Patrol investigators that she had taken money between 10 and 15 times.

The Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office filed four felony counts of embezzlement against Ware on Monday. She could face up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine for each count, if convicted.

Ware, of Edmond, was fired Oct. 25 from her position as asset forfeiture coordinator, a job she had since 1999, according to a search warrant. She was responsible for documenting, counting, filing and depositing all seized assets for the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety.

The department discovered evidence of missing money after opening an inquiry into procedural, legal and administrative issues with civil asset forfeitures, which have been a topic of debate among the Oklahoma Legislature. The commissioner’s office requested Ware hand over all her asset forfeiture files.

Ware was reluctant to release the files, and numerous requests had to be made for her to cooperate, investigators reported. The inquiry reportedly revealed evidence of missing funds from the Special Operations Division money ledger.

Highway Patrol investigators searched Ware’s home Oct. 24 and found two Special Operations Division evidence bags, one of which contained money, according to the affidavit.

Ware reportedly confessed the same day to taking asset forfeiture money and using it for personal costs.

“She admitted she was unsure exactly how much money she had taken over the course of several years,” investigators reported. “She remembered taking around $10,000 from the floor safe in 2018 and used the money to pay the mortgage on her house.”

Ware was charged with embezzling $10,683 in September and $6,729 sometime during the seven months before. She was also accused of stealing $4,810 in April 2015 and $1,070 in July 2013.

She filed a petition in bankruptcy court in 2014 for debt relief.

Nuria Martinez-Keel

Nuria Martinez-Keel joined The Oklahoman in 2019. She found a home at the newspaper while interning in summer 2016 and 2017. Nuria returned to The Oklahoman for a third time after working a year and a half at the Sedalia Democrat in Sedalia,... Read more ›