Former St. Joseph Police Officer and His Wife, a Former Deputy, Plead Guilty to Fraud Scheme Against Fraternal Order of Police
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A former St. Joseph, Mo., police officer and his wife, a former Buchanan County, Mo., sheriff’s deputy, have pleaded guilty in federal court to a wire fraud scheme in which they used debit cards from a local lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, where they served as officers, for unauthorized expenses.
Michael A. Hardin, 47, and his wife, Sarah J. Hardin, 43, pleaded guilty in separate appearances to multiple counts of wire fraud. Michael Hardin appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Lajuana M. Counts on Tuesday, April 25. Sarah Hardin appeared before U.S. District Court Judge Greg Kays on Wednesday, April 26.
Michael Hardin, a former officer with the St. Joseph Police Department, was the president of the Fraternal Order of Police Northwest Missouri Lodge #3 for approximately 10 years, until January 2020. Sarah Hardin, formerly a deputy with the Buchanan County Sheriff’s Department, was the treasurer of the lodge for approximately 10 years, until January 2020. The lodge, headquartered in St. Joseph, is a fraternity of approximately 300 law enforcement officers from police departments in nine northwest Missouri counties.
By pleading guilty, the Hardins admitted they used debit cards linked to the bank accounts of the Fraternal Order of Police Northwest Missouri Lodge #3 to make unauthorized purchases.
Sarah Hardin admitted that she made hundreds of personal purchases with the lodge’s debit card while serving as treasurer, which the government’s financial analysis concluded totaled at least $77,342. The government’s financial analysis concluded an additional $22,484 in unauthorized purchases were made from the lodge’s bank accounts between 2015 and 2019.
Sarah Hardin specifically admitted to making personal purchases at Menards, Party City, HyVee, Walmart, and Sam’s Club. The purchases included fence panels and fence posts for a fence at her residence; flowers, potting soil, bench cushions, and LED lights for her residence; and letter balloons spelling out the word “Falcons” for an event at her child’s school.
Michael Hardin specifically admitted to fraudulently using the lodge’s debit card for payments in 2017 to Hampton Inn twice and to Life Lock Advantage. The government’s financial analysis concluded that Michael Hardin conducted transactions to cover unauthorized expenses that totaled between $6,500 and $15,000 with lodge funds during his time as lodge president.
Under the terms of their plea agreements, the Hardins must pay a money judgment in an amount to be determined by the court based on the proceeds they obtained as a result of the fraud scheme.
Under federal statutes, the Hardins are each subject to a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison without parole on each of three counts of wire fraud. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.
This case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Courtney R. Pratten and Assistant U.S. Attorney Brent Venneman. It was investigated by the FBI.