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Three employees used governmental credit cards to steal more than $6 million from the public before they were caught.

Three longtime Oregon Department of Transportation employees who worked out of ODOT's regional Maintenance Station on Lawnfield Road in Clackamas pleaded guilty this month to theft of government property.Strickler

On Oct. 4 in Clackamas County Circuit Court, the wife of one of the former ODOT employees was included in a total of four defendants who admitted to crimes for their roles in a multimillion-dollar equipment reselling scheme.

Former ODOT employees Frank C. Smead of Wilsonville, John Wayne Tipton of Lake Oswego and Autumn Arndt of Eagle Creek — along with Smead's wife, Marta Smead, who was not employed by ODOT — were each guilty of purchasing equipment using an ODOT procurement card, creating fraudulent invoices and reselling more than $6 million worth of items for their personal profit. Each of the employees was fired or promptly resigned when investigators uncovered their thefts.

Over the course of many years, several million dollars' worth of equipment were fraudulently purchased and resold, according to an investigation by the Oregon State Police. The ODOT employee actions were discovered during an investigation into an unrelated ODOT whistleblower claim and was prosecuted by Clackamas County Senior Deputy District Attorney Rusty Amos.

When the charges were announced in early 2020, ODOT Director Kris Strickler said these three employees violated trust, if proven true in court. He said ODOT was making changes right away to put better monitoring tools in place.

"The public has placed in us a trust to spend state transportation dollars with integrity," Strickler said.

Strickler ordered several internal measures to help "prevent similar incidents." These measures included:

• Repurposing staff in ODOT's Central Authorization Unit to provide more close oversight and auditing of purchases

• Engaging an outside entity to help the department discover vulnerabilities in financial controls and find ways to close those loopholes

• Explore ways to improve the agency's inventory control system

As the leader of the scheme to defraud the public, it is expected that Tipton will serve a longer prison sentence than the other defendants. His 12 years in prison stemmed from his being found to have committed 12 counts of first-degree theft and six counts of aggravated theft, plus nine counts each of computer crimes and official misconduct, the most number of crimes of any of the defendants.

Later joining Tipton's illegal efforts, Arndt and Frank Smead each committed four first-degree theft counts, five counts of aggravated theft, nine counts of computer crime and nine counts of official misconduct. Smead will serve seven years in prison, while Arndt is expected to serve five years and pay $100,000 restitution at the time of sentencing.

Marta Smead's six counts of first-degree theft, one count of aggravated theft, six counts of computer crime will likely mean more than three years in prison for her.

Sentencing will take place in Clackamas County Circuit Court on Jan. 6.

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