Oklahoma County District Judge Tammy Bass-LeSure was accused in a felony fraud charge Friday of collecting state funds to care for twins that she secretly gave to her bailiff's sister.
Bass-LeSure, 43, and her husband, Karlos Antonio LeSure, 46, cheated the state out of public funds for three years, prosecutors allege.
The judge faces 30 counts of making a fraudulent claim and two counts of perjury. Her husband faces two counts of making a fraudulent claim and two counts of perjury. She said Friday at the courthouse the accusations are not true.
Prosecutors allege the judge and her husband contracted with the state to become foster parents of a twin boy and girl in January 2008. They adopted the children in May. The children are now 3.
Prosecutors allege the children actually have been with the sister of the judge's bailiff since January 2008. The bailiff, Lania Davis, and her sister, identified only as R.E., have not been charged.
The judge has been paid more than $22,000 in public funds already for caring for the children, prosecutors allege. Monthly subsidies continue until the children's 19th birthdays.
Some of the foster care payments may have been passed on to the bailiff's sister, records show.
But the judge used adoption payments last year to make purchases in Texas and Maryland and “at spas, nail salons and casinos,” the district attorney's chief investigator reported in an affidavit attached to the charge.
The judge is accused in the charge of taking repeated actions to suppress the truth about who was really caring for the children. The judge and her husband are accused of deceiving DHS and court officials “through trick, false appearances and/or other unfair acts.”
Bass-LeSure first was elected as a district judge 12 years ago and spent most of her time handling criminal cases. She decided to move to probate, guardianship and adoption cases last year after she stepped down from a high-profile murder case against a pharmacist.
She stepped down from overseeing the murder trial after prosecutors complained of misconduct. She began her new probate docket this month and was hearing a case Friday afternoon after she was charged. The judge and her husband are being allowed to turn themselves in. She left the courthouse Friday, escorted by a sheriff's deputy away from the media.
She can continue to serve as a judge while the charge is pending unless the Court on the Judiciary takes action against her, officials told The Oklahoman. She is likely to be reassigned to handle civil cases.
The children were put into DHS custody because their mother tested positive for illegal drugs at the time of their births. The mother said R.E., who was then a DHS worker, contacted her a month later to tell her Tammy Bass-LeSure wanted to adopt the children “and could offer her children a better life,” the district attorney's investigator wrote.
Oklahoma County prosecutors learned of the alleged deception after R.E. became a suspect last September in an arson case, according to the court records. A fire investigator reported “this situation involving these children is common knowledge among people who know Judge LeSure in the community.”
The judge and her husband live in Oklahoma City and have had money problems. They filed for bankruptcy in June 2009, reporting debts of more than $1 million, records show. They acted after banks foreclosed on six modest Oklahoma County houses they owned. The judge gets more than $120,000 a year in state pay.
Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater signed the charge.