Attorney General Michelle Henry announced on Tuesday that John Burkhart, the former Officer in Charge of the Lancaster County Drug Task Force, has been sentenced to 8 to 22 months in prison for stealing funds seized by the agency between 2014 and 2020. Burkhart will also serve four years of probation and was ordered to pay back $140,000 in restitution owed.
Following the sentencing hearing in Lancaster County Court, Burkhart was taken into custody and will serve his prison term in Adams County.
Charges and Guilty Plea
Burkhart pleaded guilty in March to charges of Theft by Deception and Theft by Failure to Make Required Disposition of Funds.
Investigators from the Office of Attorney General determined that Burkhart stole seized cash and failed to deposit funds during the civil asset forfeiture process in criminal cases investigated by the Lancaster County Drug Task Force. The Office of Attorney General assumed jurisdiction over the case in April 2020 following a conflict referral from the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office.
Attorney General’s Statement
Attorney General Michelle Henry expressed her disappointment in Burkhart’s actions, stating that “Mr. Burkhart took an oath to serve and protect, but instead used his position of authority to steal funds that could have gone toward treatment initiatives and enforcement of drug trafficking laws.”
The Forty-Ninth Statewide Investigating Grand Jury issued a presentment on March 4, 2022, outlining that Burkhart repeatedly stole money that had been seized during drug investigations. The Grand Jury also found that Burkhart was solely responsible for recording and delivering cash deposits from the Drug Task Force to the county treasurer after the seized assets were forfeited by court order.
Stolen Funds and Missing Evidence Envelopes
Burkhart stole cash from the Lancaster County Drug Task Force safe where seized money was stored before it was formally forfeited and placed into the Lancaster County general fund bank account. The Grand Jury learned that Burkhart had nearly exclusive control of the safe and its contents. During the investigation, it was discovered that evidence envelopes containing seized cash were missing, which included funds seized from bank accounts. Funds seized were turned over to the county by the bank, and the county controller’s office would provide a check to the Drug Task Force in care of John Burkhart. Burkhart was solely responsible for cashing those checks and placing the money into the safe until they were forfeited by court order.
This case was prosecuted by Chief Deputy Attorney General Brian Zarallo and Senior Deputy Attorney General Megan Madaffari.