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Hartshorne money scandal rocks community

An estimated 3 million dollars funneled away from where it could have gone (KTUL).

The brazenness and scope of the crime is matched only by the scale of the irony outside city hall, where there's a banner hoisted high advertising the Hard Times Festival.

RELATED I State audit: More than $1.7 million in City of Hartshorne utility payments missing

"We've got some serious issues here," said Hartshorne City Councilor Sheryl Baker. She asked for the state auditor to check the books after being told there wasn't money to mow the grass in the town cemetery.

"We were told there was no money, there was no money for a mower, or a weed-eater or to pay for the gas," she said.

And while there wasn't money for the basics…

"There were tickets to six flags, there were tickets to a Thunder game," said Oklahoma State Auditor Gary Jones, detailing a decades long scam which was unknowingly funded by regular folks who thought they were just paying their utility bills.

"You come in to pay your utility bill and you pay in cash. They go back in and they make an adjustment on the account that shows that basically that's been paid. And then they turn around and pocket that cash," he said.

An estimated $2 million funneled away from where it could have gone.

"Our streets are neglected, our water system needs help, our sewer system needs help," said City Councilor Ashley Faulkner.

Over the years, there were those who had suspicions.

"I couldn't account for $15,000 that should have been ours," said former police chief Jimmy Don Wilson, who actually went to the OSBI to ask about having an audit, but then second-guessed himself.

"They could do an audit, but if I was wrong and they were right, I still had to work here, so I just kind of dropped it because I thought, well, maybe I could be wrong," he said.

The Hard Times Festival is more than just a catchy name in Hartshorne.

"It should not have happened this long, it should have been caught far sooner than this," Jones said.

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