On Monday, Traci Owens, 45, of Yukon was taken into custody by the Canadian County Sheriff’s Office and booked into jail on 72 counts of embezzlement, involving over $70,000.
Owens, who was appointed in 2010 as Canadian County’s Executive Director for the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) organization came under suspicion last fall when officials realized discrepancies in financial documents existed.
Although the discrepancies weren’t noted until November of 2013, it’s believed Owens may have began embezzling funds as early as September 2011, about a year after she became Executive Director.
In June of 2013, and after coming under scrutiny for attendance issues, Owens in an Email to the Canadian County CASA Board resigned her position as Executive Director. The employee that assumed her position quickly noted discrepancies in finances after reviewing financial documents. Those concerns were passed along to county officials, ultimately landing in the Sheriff’s Office for investigation.
CASA, an organization created by the courts is made up of volunteers who are appointed (by judges) to watch over and advocate for abused and neglected children, to make sure they don’t get lost in the legal and social service system or languish in inappropriate group or foster homes. Volunteers stay with each case until it is closed and the child is placed in a safe, permanent home. For many abused children, their CASA volunteer will be the one constant adult presence in their lives. A large portion of the funding that supports CASA is generated by local donations, and benevolent organizations such as the United Way.
"Once I learned of what Owens was suspected of, I assigned the case to my Investigations Division and gave it top priority. I was appalled by the thought that someone had victimized the children this program was designed to support," said Randall Edwards, Canadian County Sheriff.
Investigators worked on the case for five months, and were able to put together a compelling case for the District Attorney’s Office to prosecute.
The Sheriff’s Office obtained a search warrant for Owens’ residence in Yukon, and a warrant for her arrest.
On Friday, March 28, Sheriff Edwards and members of his Investigations Division executed the search warrant at Owens’ residence in Yukon, and although Owens was not present, Investigators seized computer equipment, and additional documents substantiating the charges against her.
"My investigation shows Owens systematically abused her position by issuing herself extra payroll, bonus checks and other unauthorized expenditures, and all but bankrupted CASA. What makes this case so heinous is that the monies that were embezzled were to support under-privileged children and she spent it on herself, further victimizing these children," said Edwards.
Owens was booked into the Canadian County Jail on 72 counts of embezzlement, and bond was set at $50,000. She was able to post bond and was released Monday evening. If convicted, Owens faces up to 10 years in prison.