Pittsburg County sheriff arrested, charged with embezzlement following OSBI investigation

PITTSBURG COUNTY, Okla. — The Pittsburg County sheriff has been charged with embezzlement and appeared in court at around 3 p.m. on Tuesday in McAlester after the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation opened a financial fraud investigation.

According to court documents, Morris purchased a 2023 Polaris utility vehicle for his personal use and later traded the Polaris for a different ATV.

Morris then bought the Polaris for the Pittsburg County Sheriff’s Office. When the sheriff’s office purchased the Polaris, it was represented as a new vehicle to county officials to bypass state bidding requirements.

Upon reviewing the purchase order request for the Polaris, OSBI noted the invoice from the dealership indicated that the vehicle was used even though the state contract process requires vehicles or equipment to be purchased in new condition.

When the Pittsburg County court clerk learned that the Polaris was used and not new, they reported their findings to the district attorney.

Morris allegedly told someone with the sheriff’s office that he didn’t like his Polaris Side-by-Side because it had ‘already broken down’ and he needed to find a way to ‘get out from under it’. Morris said he wanted to purchase a Can-Am, but the dealership had only offered him a $26,000 trade value on the Polaris.

A few weeks later, Morris bought the Polaris for the sheriff’s office and got the new Can-Am.

The State is alleging that Morris negotiated a trade-in value of $31,099 for the Polaris with the dealership based on his representation to them that the vehicle had added accessories including but not limited to a lift kit to increase its value. Morris is alleged to have previously removed the accessories from the vehicle when negotiating both the trade-in of the Polaris and the sheriff’s office’s purchase price.

During the investigation, OSBI obtained bank records regarding the loan on the Polaris. Morris had personally bought and took out a loan on the Polaris in August 2023.

The payoff of the loan for the Polaris was $28,568.38 and the loan was satisfied in December 2023 by a new loan on a Can-Am utility vehicle.

OSBI also noted that the Polaris continued to be used as collateral to secure Morris’ loan for six weeks after he began the purchasing process for the sheriff’s office.

OSBI said Morris falsely represented the purpose of the loan to bank officials. He already had a “clear” title for the Can-Am that was registered in his name.

It was later learned that he did not have a pre-existing loan on the Can-Am and the loan they paid off was for the Polaris that Pittsburg County had bought.

In February 2024, OSBI interviewed Morris who admitted to buying the Polaris for his personal use in August 2023 but denied the purchase of the Polaris for the sheriff’s office was part of the negotiations for him to buy the new Can-Am.

When confronted with bank records on the refinance of the Can-Am, Morris claimed that someone must have “made a mistake”. He also blamed the county clerk for having the dealership change the invoice from “used” to “new” because he knew he was buying a used vehicle.

OSBI believes that based on the trade value received in exchange for the county’s purchase of the used Polaris and the accessories that Morris removed from the vehicle prior to the trade-in, Morris defrauded the county and benefited from the transaction.

The State believes that Morris traded in the Polaris for an inflated value and arranged for the sheriff’s office to buy the vehicle.

Morris appeared in court on Tuesday for an initial hearing of the charges.

Morris was later arrested and charged with one count of embezzlement of state property and was booked into jail.

This case is being prosecuted by Wagoner County District Attorney Jack Thorp, and not the DA who oversees Pittsburg County since this case involves a Pittsburg County official.

Thorp said Morris was later released on a personal recognizance bond, meaning Morris promised to return to court for his next hearing and did not have to pay a financial bond. Thorp said he’s not worried about Morris going anywhere since he’s running for Sheriff and does not appear to be a flight risk.

Thorp also said as part of the bond, Morris cannot have any contact with any witnesses in the case and if some of the witnesses are deputies, he cannot discuss details of the case with them.

Morris released the following statement about the investigation.

“Election interference is not only happening in our great nation, but it is happening right here in Pittsburg County, Oklahoma. I have done absolutely nothing wrong. This is an orchestrated event, planned to make me look bad just weeks before the election. The truth will come out. It is paramount that you keep a strong sheriff with proven leadership for our county. I appreciate your continued to support and I ask that all of you stand strong, go vote and keep a constitutional sheriff that knows his duties, stands up for the citizens of Pittsburg County not only as your sheriff, but is not afraid to stand up for what is right and be a voice for the people. Let’s keep Pittsburg County going in the right direction and let Sheriff Chris Morris continue to provide you with the best law enforcement this county has ever seen.”

As for Morris’ calling this election interference, Thorp said this investigation has been underway since February and is being investigated by an OSBI agent out of Oklahoma City.

Ben Morgan

Ben Morgan

News Editor

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