Ex-mayor, bank VP arraigned in fraud scheme

Clint Claypole (left), from Long, Claypole & Blakley Law, escorts his client, Ernst "Ernie" Leroy Currier, into the Garfield County Courthouse for Currier's initial appearance on 33 felonies involving 61 fraudulent loans and identity theft over 15 years, totaling more than $6 million Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017. (Bonnie Vculek / Enid News & Eagle)

Bonnie Vculek

Two months ago, Enid Police Department investigators began uncovering what they now describe as “a massive loan fraud scheme” that began more than 17 years ago.

Police believe former Enid Mayor Ernie Currier stole the personal identities of at least nine confirmed individuals — gained through his position as senior VP of commercial lending at Security National Bank and as a community leader at the First Baptist Church in Enid — and created at least eight other false identities.

“Ultimately, through a series of later phone calls, Currier confessed that he’d used the citizen’s personal information to open several fraudulent loans at the bank,” said Capt. Tim Jacobi.

Currier resigned from Enid Public Schools Board of Education Sept. 13 but still held a position with the Vance Development Authority at the time of his arrest.

Attorney Clint Claypole, who is representing Currier, issued the following statement from his client after search warrant affidavits were filed in the investigation: "We’ve been in contact with law enforcement from the beginning of this investigation. We intend to cooperate fully with the investigators and look forward to it being completed as soon as possible.”

After Currier’s arrest on Tuesday, Claypole reiterated Currier's cooperation with authorities since the investigation’s inception. Currier surrendered after charges were filed.

Ironically, Currier’s arrest occurred during International Fraud Awareness Week, a global effort promoted by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.

Once a respected and highly visible community leader, Currier has kept a low profile since his abrupt resignation from the bank on Sept. 5. He also stepped down from leadership roles at his church.

Although Currier was charged with 33 felonies in the multi-million-dollar fraud investigation, bond was set at only $10,000. While some argue that bond isn’t for punishment, many have questioned why the bond was set so low.

Currier has not been convicted of any crimes and is innocent until proven guilty. If crimes were committed, however, the punishment should fit the crime in an equitable way.

Jacobi said the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office were consulted during the early part of the investigation. However, federal investigations of white-collar crime can be lengthy and could result in long delays, fewer charges and less harsh punishment.

To keep the criminal activity concealed, Jacobi said, Currier manufactured a large collection of fabricated documents over the years and “routinely used portions of the unlawful proceeds for his own personal gain.”

We appreciate the work and diligence of Sgt. Nick John and the department’s detectives who put so much time and effort into the investigation.

Police have collected what they described as “an imposing amount of evidence and financial data,” but no one knows what would be the motivation behind such an elaborate scheme.

The why has not been answered. Only Currier himself can answer that — and what happened to the money.

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