Muskogee federal courthouse

CNHI file photo

The former Hartshorne city clerk pleaded guilty Monday in federal court to stealing more than $83,000 from the city.

Meredith Dawn Dunkin was charged by information in October for one count of theft concerning programs receiving federal funds from 2013 to 2016 while she was Hartshorne’s city clerk.

The information filed against Dunkin alleges she received more than $10,000 in benefits under a federal program involving a grant, contract, subsidy, loan, guarantee, insurance, or other federal assistance from 2013 to 2016 and obtained the funds “by fraud, embezzlement, and otherwise without authority, property worth at least $5,000 owned by the City of Hartshorne."

U.S. Magistrate Judge Steven P. Shreder accepted Dunkin’s plea and found her guilty of the charge during court action Monday at the Eastern District of Oklahoma U.S. Courthouse in Muskogee. A pre-sentence investigation will now be conducted before a sentencing hearing is scheduled.

Dunkin was present at the Monday afternoon court hearing in Shreder’s courtroom with her lawyer, Warren Gotcher, with the U.S. Government represented by U.S. Assistant Attorney Rob Wallace.

After Shreder found Dunkin was competent for the hearing, the judge accepted Dunkin’s waiver for an indictment by a grand jury.

A plea agreement signed in August by Dunkin, Gotcher, and Wallace was discussed in court and states if Dunkin pleaded guilty, the U.S. government could not charge her with any more crimes that could arise from any additional investigation.

Dunkin also waived certain rights to appeal.

When asked about a possible sentence, Wallace said there was still a decision to be made by prosecutors on whether to ask for a sentence enhancement for Dunkin’s abuse of trust.

Gotcher disagreed to the enhancement.

The plea agreement also states Dunkin will owe restitution in the amount of $83,083.35 to the city of Hartshorne and a forfeiture of items that were purchased with the illegally- obtained funds.

After reading the plea agreement, Shreder asked Dunkin if she understood that the sentencing judge, U.S. District Judge Ronald White, does not have to follow the plea agreement.

“Whatever Judge White gives you, that’s the sentence you’re stuck with,” Shreder told Dunkin.

Dunkin said she understood and entered her guilty plea to the information.

Shreder said he found factual basis in the case and accepted Dunkin’s guilty plea. He told Dunkin that White’s office will contact her with the date of the sentencing hearing.

Dunkin was allowed to stay free on an own-recognizance bond with no supervision; she forfeited her passport to the court.

The News-Capital opened an investigation into the city of Hartshorne’s finances in 2016 after filing requests through the Open Records Act.

City council members filed Open Records Act requests and Hartshorne residents circulated petitions requesting the State Auditor and Inspector’s Office conduct an investigatory audit into the city’s finances.

Results of the investigative audit by the State Auditor and Inspector’s office released in October 2017 shows Dunkin “charged at least $80,083.35 in personal expenditures with the City’s Visa credit card” from July 2009 through July 2016.

An executive summary from the audit showed possibly $1,725,336.16 of the city’s utility revenues was not deposited during the scope of the audit. The 2017 audit criticized Dunkin, then-city treasurer Shirley Day, and then-Mayor Carolyn Trueblood. “Dunkin charged 354 personal transactions totaling $80,083.35 on the city’s Visa credit card” between July 2011 and August 2016, the audit states.

The audit states Dunkin used the city credit card to pay for federal taxes, Dallas Cowboys, Oklahoma City Thunder and Texas Rangers game tickets, charges to Amazon and various stores, a trip to Cozumel, Mexico, and more.

Dunkin and Day retired from their positions with the city, while Trueblood resigned as the city’s mayor.

Contact Derrick James at djames@mcalesternews.com

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