The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

March 19, 2013

Commerce men accused of embezzling funds from housing authority

By Wally Kennedy

MIAMI, Okla. — A warrant was issued Friday for Bob Crawford, the former executive director of the Commerce Housing Authority, who has been charged with five counts of embezzlement of public funds.

A warrant also was issued for Patrick Alan Cole, a maintenance man at the housing authority, who has been charged with one count of embezzlement of public funds.

The two men, both of Commerce, are charged with embezzling nearly $28,500 from the agency, according to affidavits on file in Ottawa County District Court.

A spokeswoman for the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department said neither man had been arrested as of Monday afternoon.  

Crawford, 61, who was removed from office in January 2012 after local authorities became suspicious about the possibility of embezzlement, is accused of issuing himself four additional paychecks totaling $5,215.33, from Jan. 9, 2009, to Jan. 24, 2012.

In addition, Crawford wrote himself $15,612.99 in unauthorized checks from April 2, 2009, through Jan. 23, 2012, from the Commerce Housing Authority operating account. The checks bore no memorandum or claimed to redeem cash compensation for vacation, sick or personal days.

Cole, 32, is charged with using a Visa debit card to buy non-business items totaling $7,671.49, from March 23, 2011, to Nov. 23, 2011. The purchases included cigarettes, groceries, DVDs, children’s toys and Walmart gift cards, an affidavit states.

Bond was set at $10,000 for each man, records show.

The charges stem from an investigation by a special agent with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and agents with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.