Former drug task force head allegedly stole $200K from operation

Aimee Ambrose
York Dispatch

The former head of Lancaster County’s Drug Task Force faces theft and other charges for allegedly stealing more than $200,000 from the agency over five years.

John Burkhart, 57, faces charges of theft, tampering with records and evidence and forgery following a grand jury investigation into the case, Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s office said, in a news release. The charges were filed Tuesday in Lancaster County, where Burkhart was arrested and arraigned.

The office alleges Bukhart, as the group's lead officer, stole $150,000 in seized cash, including funds taken from bank accounts, from the task force’s safe from at least 2015 through 2020. The money was held in evidence envelopes, according to AG's office.

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The funds were held in the safe as part of a procedure that when the task force seized accounts, those banks would issue checks. Those checks would be deposited into Lancaster County’s general fund account, and the county controller’s office would then cut a check to the task force in Bukhart’s care. Then he would be responsible for cashing those checks and placing them in the safe until courts ordered the funds forfeited to the county, investigators alleged.

According to the AG's office, another approximately $50,000 was skimmed as investigators accuse Burkhart of writing false deposit amounts from the seized funds before the county treasurer could record them.

He allegedly deposited at least $170,000 of the funds into his personal bank account.

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The attorney general’s office took over the case in April 2020 after the Lancaster District Attorney’s Office handed it over, citing a potential conflict.

— Aimee Ambrose can be reached at aambrose@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @aimee_TYD.