Within hours of learning of a theft investigation involving a Washington police lieutenant, Police Chief Ed Menefee called him into to his office and accepted his resignation.
Paul Kesterson, 48, Washington, pleaded guilty Monday in federal court to information-access device fraud for stealing $29,000 from the group that oversees Explorer Scout training.
According to Washington Police Detective Sgt. Steve Sitzes, Kesterson was off work April 17 when Menefee was contacted by O’Fallon police about the investigation.
Kesterson had been serving as the director for the St. Louis Area Law Enforcement Exploring Association (SLALEEA), handling finances and managing the Explorer Academy training.
“When chief (Menefee) heard about this he got (Kesterson) in here within two hours and had his resignation,” Sitzes told The Missourian. “He didn’t let it fester.”
Kesterson had been with the Washington force since 2004.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office Eastern District of Missouri, from Feb. 1, 2018, to April 2019, Kesterson stole $29,000 in goods and services while the SLALEEA director.
An investigation began on Kesterson after the assistant director received a phone call from U.S. Bank regarding a late credit card payment.
Authorities looked into Kesterson’s use of the SLALEEA account, as well as a Washington Police Department bank account controlled by Kesterson on behalf of the Explorer association.
Financial records revealed that Kesterson had been using the credit/debit card to make personal purchases, according to the district attorney’s office.
Kesterson entered a guilty plea in front of U.S. District Judge Richard Webber. He is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 10.
He could serve up to 15 years in prison and be fined $250,000.
The case was investigated by the U.S. Secret Service, Washington and O’Fallon police.
No other members of the Washington department were the focus of the investigation.
During the investigation Washington police aided the Secret Service by providing documentation of purchases for the local Explorer post.
Sitzes added that local officers looked at charges, such as uniform purchases, to determine if they were legitimate purchases, or not.
According to Sitzes, the Bank of Washington account for the Washington Explorers required two signatures to write checks or make withdrawals.
When former Washington officer Andy Melton left the force, Kesterson was the only person who had access to the account. Kesterson then denied other officers to have their name on the account.
“They would try to get on the account but he would push it off,” Sitzes said. “He said he would take care of it.”
He added that Kesterson wrote checks to himself and forged Melton’s name. It is estimated that Kesterson stole about $1,800 from the Washington Explorer account.
Sitzes explained there had been $2,200 in the account, but some of those funds were used for legitimate purchases. Following the investigation the account was closed with just $30 in it.
A new account was then replenished with funds owed for work conducted by the Explorers.
Sitzes said Kesterson didn’t follow up with organizations that had not paid the group for its work.
“The kids we are back up to where we were originally,” Sitzes said.
Prior to joining the Washington police department, Kesterson was an officer in Cape Girardeau from 1993 to 2004. He served in the U.S Army before that from 1990-93.
He was named a sergeant here in 2008 and then reached the rank of lieutenant in 2014.
Kesterson started working with the Washington Explorers in 2008. In July of 2015 he began serving on the SLALEEA board. He became director in 2017.