DA says Osage County bar owner may be arrested

Robert Smith

District Attorney Mike Fisher on Monday told Osage County commissioners that the owner of a bar in the county may be arrested for failure to close her business in compliance with Gov. Kevin Stitt’s amended executive order regarding the prevention of COVID-19 spread.

Fisher said that an arrest was probable, and that the state was on the verge of yanking the bar owner’s license. He added that the state Attorney General’s Office had said the bar owner could be arrested for a separate misdemeanor offense for each day she opens her establishment in defiance of the governor’s executive order, which calls for the closure of “non-essential” businesses.

Each offense would carry a potential penalty of up to six months in the county jail, and up to a $3,000 fine, Fisher said.

“We probably will have our first arrest,” Fisher told the commissioners, who were meeting at the Agriculture Building, located at the county fairgrounds. “In my opinion, issuing a ticket does not get the business closed.”

Fisher said law enforcement will deal with businesses on a case-by-case basis when it comes to complying with the governor’s order, but he said the bar owner who might be arrested had been given multiple opportunities to come into compliance.

Fisher said he disliked having to take the step of arresting a business owner, but compliance with the governor’s order during the COVID-19 pandemic is not optional.

The district attorney also posted a warning on his Facebook page last week in response to reports of people going into stores, saying they had COVID-19 and threatening to cough on people. Fisher confirmed Wednesday morning, April 1, that he had received reports from municipal police departments. He added that he had not received such reports from sheriffs.

Fisher bluntly warned that anyone claiming to have been infected with the novel coronavirus and threatening to cough on others will be subject to arrest and prosecution.

“Now is not the time to demonstrate how stupid you can be,” he said in his Facebook post. He requested anyone who witnesses such behavior to immediately report it to law enforcement.

Another issue about which he posted on his Facebook page last week was fraud attempts related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The United States Secret Service has issued a couple of scam alerts related to the COVID-19 virus and I think it’s important that this information be shared,” Fisher said in his post about fraud. “Please help me get the word out.

“People are receiving phone calls, texts, messages and emails that are purportedly from government agencies regarding the issuance of the federal government’s incentive checks to individuals,” Fisher said. “They are being asked to provide birth dates, Social Security numbers and other personal data in order to receive their checks. Do not fall victim to this as all such communication is a scam to obtain your personal information.

“There is a second scam where people are receiving emails that appear to be from hospitals or health agencies that suggest that the person receiving the email has been exposed to COVID-19 and that they should click on a link that is contained in the email to obtain information on where to go or what to do to be tested,” Fisher said. “This is also a scam. By clicking on the link you are providing your login information to the scammer who can then use it to load malware or other viruses onto your computer.”

Fisher said Monday that the state Attorney General’s consumer protection division will prosecute fraud cases.