ENID, Okla. — Former Enid mayor and bank vice president Ernst "Ernie" Leroy Currier was charged Tuesday in Garfield County District Court with 33 felonies involving 61 fraudulent loans and identity theft dating back over 15 years and totaling more than $6 million.
"Enid Police Detectives, particularly Sgt. Nick John, spent hundreds of hours analyzing what is now believed to be the largest fraud investigation in Enid Police Department history," said Capt. Tim Jacobi. "The police investigation, with the complete cooperation of Security National Bank of Enid, other financial institutions and the close partnership with District Attorney Mike Fields, has resulted in the arrest of Ernst Currier on multiple fraud charges."
The eight-page indictment includes 33 total felony counts: one count of misapplication of funds, one count of unlawful proceeds, seven counts of false personation, 12 counts of second-degree forgery and 12 counts of obtaining money by false pretenses. Currier, 64, faces up to 299 years imprisonment, fines of up to $160,000 and civil penalties of up to three times the value of the property involved in the transaction.
Jacobi said the investigation concluded Tuesday when an arrest warrant was issued and Currier was arrested. Currier's wife, Deborah, posted $10,000 bond for her husband Tuesday, online court records show. The bond was set by District Judge Dennis Hladik on the warrant issued Tuesday for Currier's arrest.
Affidavit: 'I am in some deep trouble,' Currier wrote
On Sept. 5, a man made a report with the Enid Police Department regarding the theft of his identity. He said on Aug. 31 he’d received a phone call from a Security National Bank representative who inquired about his farm equipment loan. The man said he’d never received such a loan, so he contacted Currier, senior vice president of commercial lending at Security National Bank in Enid.
"The man described Currier as a close personal friend and fellow member of the First Baptist Church in Enid," Jacobi said. "Currier initially tried reassuring the citizen that the bank had made an error and that his identity had not been stolen. 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. Currier also admitted that other individuals were victimized."
According to an affidavit filed in the case, when the man called Currier about the loans Currier told him he had taken the loans out in his name and that Currier "fully expected to be prosecuted." Currier also told the man there were other names he used to create fraudulent loans. The man recorded the conversation and gave police a copy.
That man had three loans, in the amounts of $125,000, $100,000 and $145,000, taken out in his name, according to the affidavit. Records indicate Currier generated and signed the documents used to open loans in the man's name.
Currier resigned from Security National Bank on Sept. 5. Two days later, on Sept. 7, law enforcement officials confirmed an investigation into Currier's activities.
On Sept. 7, another man reported to police he found three fraudulent loans opened in his name at SNB for a total amount of $265,000, according to the affidavit. The first loan was opened Nov. 15, 2016, in the amount of $100,000; the second opened Dec. 1, 2016, in the amount of $75,000; and the third opened July 13, 2017, in the amount of $90,000.
The man also told police he attended First Baptist Church of Enid with Currier and that in October or November of last year Currier asked him to come by the bank, according to the affidavit. The man said Currier told him he needed to conduct a background check on him so he could help at the church. The man said he provided his personal information to Currier at that time.
The man told Detective James McFadden he conducted a check of his credit and found an inquiry from Security National Bank dated Nov. 14, 2016, but he had never done business with the bank and never signed any loan documents, according to the affidavit. Records show Currier generated and signed the documents used to open the fraudulent loans in that man's name.
The man also provided police with a copy of an email sent to him by Currier on Sept. 6. It read in part, "I have created a mess that I am dealing with in my life, and I am in some deep trouble."
McFadden was contacted by a third man Sept. 7 who told police he'd been notified of a fraudulent loan in his name at Security National Bank, according to the affidavit. The man told McFadden he'd had a legitimate loan through SNB, which he had since paid off, and that Currier was the loan officer he used for that transaction. He said that was the only loan he ever had through the bank.
The man said he'd met Currier at church, and it was Currier who led him to the bank for the legitimate loan, according to the affidavit. The man said he was notified by Security National Bank about four fraudulent loans taken out in his name. The first was taken out Feb. 15, 2011, in the amount of $100,000; the second was opened March 2, 2011, in the amount of $100,000; the third was opened June 6, 2011; in the amount of $50,020; and the fourth was opened Nov. 12, 2015, in the amount of $125,000.
'Massive loan fraud scheme'
The affidavit continues with 14 more names and 53 fraudulent loans.
"What they uncovered was a massive loan fraud scheme that began more than 17 years ago," Jacobi said. "Using his position at the bank, Currier opened a total of 61 fraudulent loans between the years 2000 and 2017. He did so by stealing and using the personal identities of at least nine confirmed individuals and creating at least eight other false identities. He was able to gain access to those identities by using his position of trust at the Security National Bank, the First Baptist Church in Enid and by his status as a leader in the community."
Bank records indicated Currier disbursed the loans by using wire transfers to a variety of business and personal accounts held at other financial institutions. Currier had established the other accounts by using sham companies and counterfeit personal information, according to Jacobi. Once the proceeds were transferred, Currier would typically use a portion of the funds to make loan payments and another portion for his personal use.
"The banking records clearly indicated that Ernst Currier routinely used portions of the unlawful proceeds for his own personal gain," Jacobi said. "To keep his criminal activity concealed and to further the scheme, Currier manufactured a large collection of fabricated documents over the years."
Those documents included fraudulent tax returns, forged loan applications, financial statements, identification documents and profit and loss statements, Jacobi said. He also set up several post office boxes to direct mail and to give the appearance of a legitimate address.
The total combined original amount of all 61 fraudulent loan accounts opened unlawfully by Currier is $6,207,229.88. The combined outstanding and remaining balance on all the fraudulent loan accounts is $1,811,588.01, Jacobi said.
"The FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office were consulted during the early part of the investigation," Jacobi said. "Ultimately, the Enid Police Department and District Attorney Mike Fields elected to investigate and prosecute this case locally. That decision was based on the confidence in the investigative abilities of the Enid Police Department and in consultation with the district attorney’s office regarding potential charges."
Jacobi said, "Police obtained a substantial number of search warrants and grand jury subpoenas that were served on Currier’s home, office and financial institutions during the course of the investigation. Those searches resulted in the collection of an imposing amount of evidence and financial data."
Citizen of the Year
Currier was a 2014 Pillar of the Plains honoree and was named Greater Enid Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year in 2016.
Greater Enid Chamber of Commerce President Jon Blankenship said Currier's actions leading to his arrest had no impact on the chamber's operations.
"It’s a terrible situation, and it’s a story that has surprised and disappointed many people," he said. "The legal system is just going to have to run its course."
Currier is a Vance Air Force Base Partner in the Sky and Vance Development Authority member. He also serves on Leadership Greater Enid Board. Currier volunteered his time and was instrumental in getting more than $90 million in bonds passed for Enid Public Schools in February 2016 and garnering voter approval for the Kaw Lake pipeline to secure Enid’s future water needs.
Currier, who was born in Buffalo, Okla., moved to Enid in 1971 after graduating from high school. The family moved here because Currier’s father, who was disabled, required medical care, he told the Enid News & Eagle in 2014.
He was mayor during the last Base Realignment and Closure round in 2005, when Vance gained personnel.
Currier resigned from Enid school board Sept. 13 in a letter to Superintendent Darrell Floyd and members of the board. The letter did not give a reason for the resignation but thanked the board members for their service. Currier previously served as school board president.
“We need to allow the judicial system to do its job in determining how to address this situation,” said Amber Graham Fitzgerald, executive director of human resources and communications for EPS. “Since it is not school-related, we do not have any additional comment on this matter.”
Currier also acted as sales tax campaign chairman during the city of Enid's push for the $360 million Kaw Lake pipeline vote, which more than 68 percent of voters favored in a vote last August.
Currier still holds a position with the Vance Development Authority, said city of Enid spokesman Steve Kime.
April Danahy, vice president of human resources and corporate communications for Security National Bank, said the bank will continue to assist authorities.
"We are deeply saddened by the situation and how it has affected others as well as our institution," Danahy said. "We have been and will continue to work diligently to increase our measures of security to ensure this type of gross deception and criminal activity does not occur again.
"We are truly humbled by the support we have received from our customers and our community."
First Baptist Church of Enid Senior Pastor Kelly Russell said the congregation was "heartbroken" by the news concerning Currier.
"As a church, it's our responsibility to love everyone through this as much as we can," Russell said. "We’re heartbroken for everybody involved."
Attorney Clint Claypole, who is representing Currier, reiterated Currier's cooperation with investigating authorities.
“We have cooperated with this investigation since its inception," Claypole said. "As soon as charges were filed this morning, Mr. Currier voluntarily surrendered himself.
"Any further comment on a pending matter, at this time would be inappropriate.”
Currier will make an initial court appearance Thursday for arraignment on the charges.