A former Washington police officer was sentenced to two months in federal prison Tuesday for stealing more than $25,000 from the Explorer Scout training program.
Paul Kesterson, 48, also was ordered to pay $25,556 in restitution for the theft from the St. Louis Area Law Enforcement Exploring Association (STLEEA). Kesterson appeared in front of U.S. District Judge E. Richard Webber.
Kesterson pleaded guilty in June.
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 he served as director for STLEEA.
Kesterson, who had been a lieutenant with the Washington department, handled all of the finances and managed the Explorer Academy training. He was issued a credit and debit card to withdraw funds from the STLEEA checking account for the benefit of the organization.
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 STLEEA 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 a STLEEA credit/debit card to make personal purchases, according to the district attorney’s office.
Shortly after charges came to light against Kesterson, the former lieutenant was in Police Chief Ed Menefee’s office giving his resignation.
Washington police told The Missourian that Kesterson was off work April 17 when Menefee was contacted by O’Fallon police about the investigation. Two hours later, Kesterson was no longer employed with the department.
Kesterson had been with the Washington force since 2004.
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.
According to Washington police, local officers looked at charges, such as uniform purchases, to determine if they were legitimate purchases, or not.
Washington Police Detective Sgt. Steve Sitzes previously told The Missourian that the Bank of Washington account for the Washington Explorers required two signatures to write checks or make withdrawals.
When a former Washington officer 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.
Police allege that Kesterson would forge the name of the officer who left the force, and he wrote checks to himself. It is estimated that Kesterson stole about $1,800 from the Washington Explorer account.
Sitzes stated 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.
However, Kesterson had not collected payment for work conducted by the Explorers. The group’s account was replenished shortly after the investigation ended, police 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 STLEEA board. He became director in 2017.
On Tuesday, Kesterson’s public LinkedIn profile listed him as a self-employed private investigator. The profile lists his past experiences in law enforcement but it does not mention charges against him.