Charges Add Up Against Oklahoma Official

     OKLAHOMA CITY (CN) – At the urging of angry citizens, an Oklahoma county commissioner faces removal from office after being charged with two new counts of embezzlement, prosecutors said.
     Rogers County Commissioner Michael Earl Helm, 54, of Collinsville, was arrested Friday and quickly released after posting $5,000 bail. Rogers is a suburban county northeast of Tulsa.
     A multicounty grand jury returned an accusation for removal Thursday, asking a state judge to suspend Helm immediately pending trial.
     Helm is charged with embezzlement exceeding $1,000 and embezzlement exceeding $500, Attorney General Scott Pruitt said.
     Helm allegedly sold a county pickup truck and failed to deliver the money to the county. If convicted, he could be sentenced to 5 years in prison and fined $5,000 for the first embezzlement count and another year and another $5,000 fine for the second count.
     Pruitt urged the grand jury to investigate Rogers County officials in 2013 after “thousands of citizens” signed a grand jury petition.
     “Additional allegations of wrongdoing have been received from Rogers County citizens that have resulted in the filing of criminal charges against Helm,” Pruitt said in a statement.
     The indictment comes one month after Helm was indicted on other corruption charges. He was charged with conspiracy and embezzlement exceeding $1,000 for allegedly picking a private contractor to do highway work without public bidding. He also is accused of selling scrap metal and pocketing the proceeds, in the July indictment.
     Rogers County Commissioners will discuss the grand jury’s accusation of removal during its weekly meeting Monday. County commissioners asked Pruitt to seek Helm’s removal from office in July after he refused to resign or take a leave of absence.
     Helm’s next court appearance is set for Sept. 4.
     Helm, first elected in 2004, is serving his third term.
     In July, former Rogers County Commissioner Kirt Thacker was charged with conspiring to defraud the county. The multicounty grand jury indicted him in April on two counts of embezzlement. He was accused of ordering county employees to use county equipment to improve his farm property.
     Thacker, 46, of Inola, was defeated in a bid for re-election in June 2014.
     County officials could not be reached for comment Saturday.

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