Kansas agency's lost $72K: 4 years of probing, few answers

This Friday, April 23, 2021 photo shows the bottom part of a report filed by a Kansas Bureau of Investigation agent on Oct. 10, 2018, about $72,020 in cash missing from the custody of the Dickinson County Sheriff's Department sometime after a January 2017 drug bust. There's still no official explanation for what happened to the cash, despite KBI investigations. (AP Photo/John Hanna)
This Friday, April 23, 2021 photo shows the bottom part of a report filed by a Kansas Bureau of Investigation agent on Oct. 10, 2018, about $72,020 in cash missing from the custody of the Dickinson County Sheriff's Department sometime after a January 2017 drug bust. There's still no official explanation for what happened to the cash, despite KBI investigations. (AP Photo/John Hanna) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

TOPEKA, Kan. – Sometime after a January 2017 drug bust near Interstate 70's main exit for President Dwight Eisenhower's boyhood Kansas home, $72,000 in cash seized by the local sheriff's department disappeared.

The state has been investigating the Dickinson County Sheriff's Department for close to four years, with two officials saying in a court filing this year that a “fear of retribution” among department employees had slowed progress. A three-term sheriff lost last year's Republican primary decisively to a former longtime officer who told voters the department was falling apart.

The mystery has unfolded amid a national debate over whether law enforcement agencies can too easily seize cash and other assets — often without a criminal conviction. Interstate 70 has long been considered a major drug-running corridor.

Meanwhile, there’s no official explanation for what happened to the cash seized in Dickinson County.

“I would like to think that we could get some closure on that,” said Brad Homman, the county administrator.

Abilene, the county seat with 6,400 people, is about 150 miles west (241 kilometers) of Kansas City. Eisenhower’s presidential library gives the town a hint of prairie rectitude, though it had a pre-Ike past as the end of the Chisholm Trail for 1860s cattle drovers.

No criminal charges have been filed over the missing $72,000. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation closed an inquiry into the former sheriff in October 2019 and the missing funds were “fully investigated,” spokesperson Melissa Underwood said.

Yet, Underwood also wrote in a recent email to The Associated Press, “We have open cases involving Dickinson County Sheriff’s Office personnel."