OKMULGEE — Former Okmulgee Mayor Richard Larabee pleaded guilty today on a pair of felony embezzlement charges. Following the completion of a pre-sentencing investigation, Larabee is scheduled to be sentenced in Okmulgee County District Court on March 27.
State investigators and District Attorney Carol Iski said Larabee stole or improperly spent more than $150,000 while managing the McCullouch Building and about $35,000 while serving as chairman of the board for Agape Pregnancy Center‘s Okmulgee location.
“No comment,” Larabee said as he left the courtroom Wednesday. Asked if he wanted to apologize for his actions, Larabee reiterated that he had no comment.
The allegations first surfaced in February 2022, and Larabee resigned as mayor of Okmulgee a week later. Okmulgee Police Chief Joe Prentice referred the case to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. After a year’s worth of inquiry, Larabee was charged by Iski with two felony counts of embezzlement.
From April 2019 through February 2022, Larabee managed and had a 15 percent stake in the McCullouch Building under his personal company Silver Hammer Realties, LLC. He was paid $2,000 per month to manage the building, a large and historic office building in downtown Okmulgee.
Affidavits filed in the case (embedded below) allege that Larabee forged bank statements to cover up his unauthorized use of funds from McCullouch Building Owners LLC:
During the time Larabee was employed as the property manager of the McCulloch Building, the financial reports provided to the MBO by Larabee were described as incomplete and seemingly missing information. Larabee was asked to begin to provide the MBO with banking statements to better understand the finances of the business. It was later determined by a member of the MBO that those statements appeared to be banking statements but were statements to have been created by Larabee to resemble bank statements. Those statements provided by Larabee did not show all the financial transactions associated with the bank account in what was believed by the members of the MBO an attempt to hide certain financial transactions.
In late 2021, the other owners of the McCullouch Building began conversations about selling the property. According to OSBI agent Kevin Lanham’s probable cause affidavit, Larabee offered to buy the building and refinance its existing debt for $500,000 and told his partners he was having conversations with Mabrey Bank about a loan to finance the purchase.
In February 2022, Mark Mabrey, the bank’s senior vice president, told one of the McCullouch Building’s owners, Rod Wiemer, that Larabee had not discussed the idea with him and had not applied for a loan with the bank. An attorney, Wiemer ultimately signed an affidavit that was filed with the court for Larabee’s eventual criminal case.
“I suspected foul play and immediately went and met with the other owners of MBO,
Lee Gaston, Hugh Gaston, and Hugh Robinson,” Wiemer wrote. “Larabee would not respond to texts or phone calls. (…) I told the other owners that I suspected embezzlement. We agreed that Lee Gaston would go to First National Bank to investigate our accounts and Hugh Gaston would contact Arvest Bank to ensure that no further funds were drawn on our line of credit.”
Wiemer wrote that when Gaston went to First National Bank where MBO had an account, an employee allegedly asked, “What took you guys so long?”
“He obtained the last three months of bank statements and discovered that Larabee had written multiple checks to himself totaling approximately $27,000 in just the last 90 days,” Wiemer wrote. “Larabee had also bounced numerous checks accruing over $1,000 in overdraft fees. Lee Gaston further discovered that MBO had a large negative balance in its bank account despite the fact that many bills had not been paid. I drafted documents removing Larabee as a manager of MBO and revoking his signatory authority at the banks.”
Wiemer wrote that a meeting of the building’s ownership group was set for Feb. 15, 2022.
“I confronted him about his lies repeatedly but he would not come clean. He also said that the money that he took was for reimbursements for elevator repairs he had paid himself,” Wiemer wrote. “However, he had no documentation to prove that. I also confronted him about ATM withdrawals and debit card purchases. He told ridiculous lies and gave us a false accounting that did not include checks he had written himself.”
Wiemer wrote that the MBO ownership group gave Larabee three days to provide them with invoices and canceled checks “to verify the alleged reimbursements.”
“On Friday, Feb. 18, 2022, Larabee did not appear for the scheduled owners meeting. Instead, he had his secretary deliver a letter admitting that he could not account for the money he had taken,” Wiemer wrote. “He offered to resign in any capacity that he held in MBO and to give up his ownership interest in MBO which was assigned back to the other owners (…). Larabee also offered to pay ‘full restitution’ to MBO of whatever amount we determined that he owed for ‘questionable’ transactions. I obtained the bank statements of the MBO account with First National Bank from April 2019 to January 2022. They showed that since April 2019, Larabee had embezzled well over $120,000 and had paid unauthorized contractors (or his employees) approximately $32,000.”
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OSBI: Larabee cut checks to self as board chairman at nonprofit
Three months after Larabee’s financial transactions with the McCullouch Building were presented to law enforcement, OSBI was also referred allegations that formed the basis for his second embezzlement charge, which related to the Agape Pregnancy Center, a nonprofit organization that provides pregnancy testing and other resources for woman.
Okmulgee’s branch of the organization had been founded by Gaston, who served on the board along with Larabee, who had gained access to Agape’s bank accounts after becoming chairman of the board. The organization reported more than a dozen questionable checks made to Larabee between $833 and $3,700, as well as a $4,000 cash withdrawal made Feb. 25, 2022.
“The board of directors did confront Larabee about the withdrawal of $4,000,” Lanham, the OSBI agent, wrote in his second affidavit against Larabee. “The wife of Larabee did return that money to the Agape Pregnancy Center but no explanation was given why it was taken by Larabee in the first place.”
Less the returned $4,000, the total of checks, priority checks and Venmo transactions listed in the second embezzlement probable cause affidavit for Larabee totaled $34,399.32.
Kevin Gibson, the current chairman of the Agape Pregnancy Center board in Okmulgee, provided a statement Wednesday about the embezzlement.
“We are saddened by this situation and thankful for the work of authorities,” Gibson said. “In accordance with our policies, we are continually reviewing and assessing our organization’s finances. This individual, who previously served with our nonprofit organization, is no longer affiliated with us. We are praying for all those impacted by this, as we continue to minister and serve.”
Since he was charged in district court, Larabee has remained fairly active in the Okmulgee community, attending high school football games and other events. On LinkedIn, Larabee brands himself as “The Community Entrepreneur,” promoting an entity called South Tulsa Community Connection through 2022 prior to being charged.
In an unrelated transaction, Mabrey’s Bank approved a $2,800 Paycheck Protection Program loan to Larabee’s Silver Hammer Realties in April 2020. PPP loans were government payments made during the COVID-19 pandemic to businesses, which were allowed to keep the money without repayment if they did not lay off employees. Larabee reported only one employee for Silver Hammer Realties, which has virtually no online presence.