Crime

Charge dropped against man accused of stealing $2 million from Crowley ISD - for now

The federal wire fraud case against a Florida man accused of duping the Crowley Independent School District out of nearly $2 million has been dismissed without prejudice, according to court records, meaning charges could be filed again at a later date.

Donald Howard Conkright, 61, was charged with wire fraud and was arrested on Dec. 13.

Conkright — who lives and was arrested in South Florida — was scheduled to go to trial in Fort Worth next month, but on June 24, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas filed a motion to dismiss the February indictment against Conkright.

According to spokeswoman Erin Dooley, “The case was dismissed without prejudice in our district — but the investigation is still open, and Mr. Conkright is subject to prosecution in multiple districts.”

Conkright’s public defender didn’t return a call for comment.

On Oct. 24, the director of accounting for Crowley ISD received an email that appeared to be from an accountant at Steele & Freeman Inc., a construction company that is a vendor for the school. The email claimed it was providing updated banking information for Steele & Freeman for payments the school district owed the company.

The school district initially sent a $1 payment to the account to make sure it worked. When they confirmed it did, they continued the payments.

The school district sent a payment of $522,588.98 to the new bank account on Nov. 13. The next day, the school district sent the bank account more than $1.4 million, court documents say.

At some point, the Federal Bureau of Investigation became involved and found that the bank account provided to the district was owned by Conkright. He had no connection to Steele & Freeman or the school district, the documents say.

Court filings accused Conkright of making 51 withdrawals from the account between Nov. 13 and Nov. 18 totaling $1.9 million. He allegedly bought Rolex watches and a BMW with the money, records say.

As a result of the alleged scheme, Crowley ISD lost $1,995,715.

The Star-Telegram in December sent a spokesman for the district a number of questions including: Did the district get the money back? How did this affect the construction project the money was allocated for? What safeguards did the school put in place to make sure this doesn’t happen again? And what repercussions did the employee face?

Because of the ongoing investigation, the district has declined to comment.

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Nichole Manna is an investigative reporter for the Star-Telegram. Before moving to Fort Worth in July 2018, she covered crime and breaking news in Tennessee, North Carolina, Nebraska and Kansas. She is a 2012 graduate of Middle Tennessee State University and grew up in Florida.
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