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Former Oklahoma tag agent repays embezzled funds

Short
Short

A former Calera tag agent pleaded guilty Friday to embezzlement and was put on probation for two years after repaying the state.

Rhonda Jean Short reimbursed the state in all more than $629,000, the Oklahoma Tax Commission said.

Short, 55, ran the Red River Tag Agency in Calera, a town south of Durant and 10 miles north of the Oklahoma-Texas border.

She resigned as a tag agent in April, citing "unforeseen medical issues."

"She was very remorseful and ... cooperated fully in the investigation," her attorney, Bob Wyatt, said.

She embezzled the funds because she was experiencing some very bad health issues and was concerned for her family's future but never spent any of the money, the defense attorney said.

"She knew she did something wrong and was trying to figure out a way to get it back to the state," he said.

A Tax Commission memo said her unethical activities involved issuing commercial trailer renewals, voiding them and then reissuing them with a much smaller trailer count. Prosecutors alleged the illegal activities dated back to 2015.

The final reimbursement check — for $306,295 — was received Thursday.

"We discovered the discrepancies, closed the agency and requested money paid back in full," the Tax Commission's chairman, Charles Prater, said in a news release. "In further auditing, we found more discrepancies and turned the information over to the Attorney General’s Office. The commissioners wanted to ensure the return of all state monies."

In 2015, state tag agents started using a computer system that allows auditors to see every click, every delete and every step taken to complete all transactions, the Tax Commission said.

Short was charged Thursday in Oklahoma County District Court. Under a plea agreement, she was given a type of probation known as a deferred sentence. If she gets in no further trouble over the next two years, she will not have a felony conviction on her record.

Nolan Clay

Nolan Clay was born in Oklahoma and has worked as a reporter for The Oklahoman since 1985. He covered the Oklahoma City bombing trials and witnessed bomber Tim McVeigh's execution. His investigative reports have brought down public officials,... Read more ›

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