Former veterinary hospital director charged with embezzling $24,322

By Patti Weaver

(Stillwater, Okla.) — A former director of Benchmark Animal Hospital in rural Perkins has been charged with embezzling $24,322 between January 2020 and September 2021.

Laura Ashle Smith, 39, of Choctaw, has yet to be arraigned on the felony charge which was filed in Payne County District Court last week.

If convicted, Smith could be jailed for up to eight years and fined $10,000, court records show.

Payne County Sheriff’s Investigator Brandon Myers was contacted in August by the animal hospital owner, who alleged Smith embezzled $16,506.40 using a business credit card to pay for his belongings personal, according to an affidavit.

Among the items Smith purchased on the business credit card were two charges of $378.97 to an airline on June 29, 2021, $463.44 to a vacation rental network on April 5, 2021 and various charges , including at a sports bar, grocery store, and food delivery business, according to the affidavit.

In mid-September, the owner “learned during an audit of her business account that Ashle had received payments, recorded them, then withdrawn the money and deleted the transactions,” according to the affidavit.

In January 2021, “Ashle wrote a check in the amount of $2,437.18 to pay the account,” from a relative, according to the affidavit. “Ashle showed the check on the account, refunded the amount to himself, deleted that transaction, and then never gave the check to the (company’s) accountant,” the affidavit alleged.

“The total amount of money Ashle embezzled between August 2020 and August 2021 is $7,816.58,” the affidavit states.

When the investigator spoke to the owner of a Choctaw business where the defendant’s boyfriend worked, “He said he had money problems before with Ashle. He said they borrowed money to buy a car and he took care of Ashle’s bad payments. He said the situation resolved itself.

“He told me that Ashle’s PayPal payment to his company was for an air conditioner for this same car. He told me the charge has since been disputed and the money has been returned through the original credit card company linked to that PayPal account. (He) said his company has now exhausted the $1,350,” the investigator alleged in his affidavit.

The owner of Benchmark Animal Hospital “provided an email and numerous text messages from Ashle admitting to embezzlement theft through the credit card to pay for personal items and also taking money customers had paid on their bills,” the investigator alleged in his affidavit.

“The total amount of embezzlement with credit cards and money taken from the hospital is $24,322.98,” the affidavit states.

Benjamin M. Yerger