Court upholds ex-sheriff's conviction on embezzlement

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the conviction of former Lander County Sheriff Michael Kranovich on charges he embezzled money from a federally funded program.

The money was taken from the federal "equitable sharing program" in which local and federal law enforcement share the cash, property and other forfeited assets they take from defendants convicted of criminal charges.

Between July 2001 and January 2002, Kranovich withdrew funds from the account and put the cash in a locked box. Trial testimony indicated about $15,000 was missing from the account when the FBI arrested him on theft charges.

He was convicted in a trial before U.S. District Judge Ed Reed in Reno but appealed both the conviction and the sentence.

But he didn't argue innocence in his appeal. Instead, Kranovich argued he couldn't be charged with a federal violation because there was no specific connection between the embezzled money and a federal interest or program. Without that, he argued, the crime is inherently local and federal authorities have no jurisdiction.

He also argued that in order to be a federal offense, Lander County's sheriff's department must have received a minimum of $10,000 in federal grants that year. He said the county got a $12,775 federal grant to help officers buy bulletproof vests but only used $1,500.

He also argued the government evidence was insufficient and that evidence by witnesses in the case failed to support the government claim that the funds embezzled were federal property.

The appellate judges rejected those arguments saying the government isn't required to establish a connection between the federal funds and a federal interest, that the grant money for vests met the $10,000 test and that a reasonable person would agree the money was property of the United States.

The court upheld Kranovich's conviction but held the case until they resolve a separate challenge the defendant filed to overturn his sentence.

That decision has not yet been issued.

n Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at or 687-8750.


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