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More than $300,000 still owed LPS after security scandal

Lawton_Close to twenty former Lawton police officers, Comanche County Sheriff's Deputies, and Lawton Public Schools' Deputy Superintendent were convicted of stealing almost half-a-million dollars of taxpayer money over a three to four year period in a ghost employee scheme that became public in the summer of 2005.

Most of those found guilty in the Lawton Public Schools (LPS) Security Scandal already have served their time, and many have repaid the money they stole.  However, there are others who have yet to cough up hundreds-of-thousands of dollars owed as part of their sentences. 

Out of the roughly $500,000 owed, the guilty parties have repaid about $133,000 - a little more than 27% - collected in less than three years.  While some have paid a lot, others have paid very little, and one person has yet to pay a dime. 

Although the money that disappeared years ago - when LPS needed it the most - getting some of it back helps today's students.  "Ten cents, ten dollars, ten thousand, a hundred thousand dollars, it doesn't matter - it wasn't their money," said LPS Superintendent Barry Beauchamp.  "It belonged to our children, and bottom line is we need to do everything we can to recover every penny of it and hold those who took it accountable."  With the help of the federal and state court systems, the stolen funds are slowly returning to LPS coffers. 

One of the two ringleaders of the scandal - former Deputy Superintendent, Dr. Will Anderson - has repaid almost $30,000 thanks to the school district's efforts to garnish his state retirement pension.  "They agreed to that, and we're actually collecting all of his retirement while he is in incarcerated," said Beauchamp.  "When he gets out, the court has set a stipulated amount he must pay each month."

The other ringleader - former LPS Security Director and Lawton Police Officer, Mark McFarland - has paid close to $14,000.  "Obviously he doesn't have quite the same income that Dr. Anderson did because he was not in the teacher retirement system, and his police income is being garnished for a smaller amount," said Beauchamp.

Others involved have repaid far less, although they are making payments - everyone except Wanda Byrd, the woman whose sexual harassment claims eventually exposed the scandal.  She escaped from federal prison after she was sentenced, and so far has not yet paid a dime in restitution.  However, the court says that if she doesn't pay it, someone else will.  "McFarland and Anderson are held accountable for the entire amount until it's all repaid," Beauchamp said. 

One former officer - Robert Mullen - has repaid 95% of his $46,000 restitution order, and Beauchamp says it's an encouraging sign that he may have remorse for what he did.  Only three people convicted in the scandal remain behind bars.  Dr. Anderson and Mark McFarland are scheduled to be released in the spring of 2010.  Wanda Byrd could be released from federal prison next August, but it depends on whether she must serve additional time for escaping.

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