A former Oregon Department of Education accountant who stole nearly $1 million in school funds — using some of the money for his online gun and ammunition business — told the judge a peculiar story of having been confused by superiors who said he should “do something with the money.” He was sentenced to two years in prison.
Brent Crosson, the one-time education-department employee, was accused of diverting $925,000 of U.S. funds intended for charter schools and school-based anti-drug and health programs, and using it for various personal purchases, including his gun business.
U.S. District Judge Garr King handed down a shorter sentence than some people called for, according to The Oregonian newspaper in Portland. The judge cited Crosson’s cooperation with investigators, his repayment of $750,000 of the $925,000 that had been stolen, and his agreement to give up everything he owns, including proceeds from the sale of his sports car and his $540,000 former home. Crosson will have to repay the rest of the money after he leaves prison, the judge said.
Crosson had told the court that he was trying to figure out how to pay back the stolen money, but got caught first. “I was working on it, but I wasn’t sure how,” Crosson had said.
According to paper, the accountant said he had taken the money after other supervisors and managers explained to him that the federal funds were accounted for as spent, making it impossible to reconcile account balances or explain why money was still there. Crosson told the court that a former boss had advised him, “and I quote, ‘You’re the accountant. Do something with it.'” So Crossen said that he put the money into his own account “while someone could determine what to do.”
One former boss bristled at this account, according to the paper, asserting that the new version, implicating others, was inaccurate. The paper quoted a former Crosson supervisor, Joanne Timshel, as saying she was “stunned” by his statement that he had been told to “do something” with leftover federal money. “I never said that. I would never say anything like that,” she told the Oregonian..
Crosson was accused of fraudulently shifting much of the embezzled money into CGA Wholesale, an online gun dealer that he controlled, according to an earlier Associated Press report that cited court documents filed by the U.S. Attorney’s office. Crosson was fired as the department’s director of accounting services last August, after an anonymous tipster reported that the accountant may have stolen public property, according to the newspaper.
This is not the first Oregon state agency to be victimized by fraud. The AP noted that Fred Monem, the former food services administrator for the Oregon Department of Corrections, last year was indicted on charges of conspiracy, fraud, bribery and money laundering.