EL RENO — A lengthy investigation into the Yukon FFA program led to the arrest last week of a former agriculture instructor, but prosecutors say more criminal charges could be coming.
Jenna Brown, an assistant district attorney in Canadian County, told The Oklahoman that victims supplied her office with additional details after the arrest of Jason Bow, 39, on embezzlement charges last week.
“Any time that happens, if the information is credible, we will look into that,” Brown said. “In this case, we gave the information to OSBI and they are looking into (the new allegations).”
Based on the information received by her office, Brown said more criminal charges are possible. She did not say who the charges would be filed against or give further details about the new allegations.
Bow was charged Dec. 11 with two counts of embezzlement, the result of an Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation inquiry that started in June 2011. He is accused of overcharging two Yukon parents on livestock purchases, a practice known as “skimming” in the agriculture world.
Debbie Wright, who wrote a check to Bow for $7,000 in June 2010 for a show calf, was overcharged by $4,250, an affidavit filed along with the charges shows.
Another parent, Donna Yanda, was overcharged by $500.
Bow, who has no previous arrest record in Oklahoma, could serve up to five years in prison if convicted.
He resigned his job as a Yukon agriculture instructor in April 2011 after confessing to Bill Denton, the district's superintendent, that he had overcharged Debbie Wright to cover the cost of livestock that had died, the affidavit shows.
While Bow is the only one to be charged following OSBI's investigation, prosecutors say other former Yukon agriculture instructors were looked at closely in connection with the skimming allegations.
Bow worked at Yukon for roughly eight years, beginning in August 2003.
Mac DeVilbiss, who headed up Yukon's agriculture education program for decades before retiring in 2003, is listed as one of the targets of OSBI's investigation, along with Bow.
Records show that Yanda gave DeVilbiss a check for a livestock purchase in June 2010, although Bow is the one who quoted the price of the show calf.
DeVilbiss, who was not been employed by the district in an official capacity since 2005, also represented Yukon's agriculture education program in 2010 during livestock auctions, along with Bow.
“At this point, we don't have enough evidence to charge him with anything,” Brown said of DeVilbiss. “Same thing with (Tim) Herren, the pig guy.”
DeVilbiss denied any wrongdoing during an interview Friday with The Oklahoman. He said overcharging parents — and some times undercharging them — is done for legitimate purposes.
The animals have to be groomed, DeVilbiss said, “to take away the threat of injuring a young person.”
“That costs money, it takes time,” he said. “Feed is $200 a month. There can be medical treatment. Some times (instructors) can keep the animal for three or four months.”
DeVilbiss admitted that Bow may have gone too far when he overcharged Wright by $4,250. In June 2010, he said Bow was dealing with a bad national economy and the death of livestock that hadn't been turned over to students yet.
“Did he handle it right? Probably not,” DeVilbiss said. “I'd be the first to say it. But to charge a man with a felony, for that, it's a drastic step.”
In fact, DeVilbiss said he believes Bow didn't profit when he overcharged Wright.
“He's got a dead calf he was trying to encumber,” he said. “Jason could have sold that calf to any number of people for any price. There's a big price range.
“There are people I know that have spent $15,000 to $20,000 on a calf ... trying to win.”
DeVilbiss said he met with OSBI agents in August 2011 for about two hours. He said he was told by agents that nothing would come of the investigation, “but I guess they were wrong.”
Herren, who was an agriculture instructor at Yukon High School for 14 years, now teaches at Cushing Public Schools, according to the district's website.
Unlike Bow, who was in charge of purchasing cattle for students to exhibit at shows, Herren specialized in pigs. He left his job in Yukon six months ago, district records show.
Attempts to reach Herren by email and phone were not successful.
Eric Bilderback, another former Yukon agriculture instructor, was questioned by OSBI agents during the investigation but he was not the focus of the criminal inquiry.
Bilderback worked at Yukon High School during the 2011-2012 school. He currently works in a similar position in El Reno.
A statewide problem?
Randy Wright, a prominent Yukon businessman and husband of Debbie Wright, said the practice of “skimming” is a statewide problem. He also said DeVilbiss taught both Bow and Herren the art of overcharging.
“They learned it from Mac,” Randy Wright said. “(Bow) told Denton that during the school's investigation.”
Gary Perkinson, an OSBI spokesman, said the “skimming” investigation was more than likely the first of its kind for the state law enforcement agency.
Records show that more than 35 witnesses were interviewed during the investigation, including Denton, DeVilbiss and the two alleged victims.
“We don't have any information that shows that that type of skimming has gone on before,” Perkinson said. “But we can certainly see a possibility for that to occur.”
Perkinson said OSBI continues to investigate the Yukon FFA program in light of the new information from prosecutors.
“When new information has been brought forward, our agents will look into that,” he said. “That's what's going on now with this case.”
Did he handle it right? Probably not. I'd be the first to say it. But to charge a man with a felony, for that, it's a drastic step.”