Sheila Stogsdill

Special to the Grove Sun

Before handing out reward money for the arrest and conviction of wanted criminals, state and federal law enforcement agencies measure the level of involvement of the tipster.

“How much did you stick your neck on the line helps determine how much a person is paid,” said Clay Simmonds, an FBI spokesman.

The state-created Oklahoma Reward System is funded by taxpayers and is administered by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.

The OSBI has a method for determining the amount of the reward, spokeswoman Jessica Brown said.

“Offers of rewards cannot exceed 90 days but may be renewed,” Brown said. “The fund is budgeted annually and the funding is not impacted by how long the reward is unpaid.”

If a reward is never paid out, the money remains in the OSBI Evidence Fund and is reused, she said.

“The key is arrest and conviction,” Brown said.

In the past 10 years, OSBI has paid out $11,000 in reward money, Brown said.

The last reward OSBI paid was $1,000 in 2007.

That award was related to a 2005 case of a serial convenience store robber who was hitting stores in Lindsey, Chickasha, Purcell and Newcastle, she said.

Two of the state’s highest profile cases have had rewards offered.

A reward of up to $160,000 is offered for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for the slaying of 13-year-old Taylor Placker and 11-year-old Skyla Whitaker.

The best friends were gunned down while walking on a rural dirt road near Weleetka on June 8, 2008.

An anonymous donor offered $70,000, two Tulsa area independent oil companies put up a combined $50,000, the U.S. Marshals Service offered $10,000, the community donated $20,000, and the OSBI added another $10,000.

Last year the OSBI offered a $10,000 reward in addition to an existing $50,000 for information that would help solve the shooting deaths of a Craig County couple, Danny and Kathy Freeman, and the disappearance of their 16-year-old daughter, Ashley Freeman, and her best friend Lauria Bible.

The portion of the OSBI reward expired after 90 days, while the Weleetka reward money was renewed, Brown said.

Both FBI and OSBI officials said reward money doesn’t sit in a bank account or draw interest.

“There is not an actual designated amount held from year to year for each reward so any unpaid rewards do not accumulate a cash reserve,” Brown said.

Reward money comes from several sources, said Simmonds, of the FBI.

For example, some reward money comes from seizures.

Take Bernie Madoff, for instance, he said.

Madoff pleaded guilty to 11 federal crimes related to money fraud in March 2009.

“We can sell a $5 million dollar ring from Madoff’s assets for $1 million,” Simmonds said. “We have $1 million in our reward fund and someone has made a good deal.”