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Couple accused of taking $33K-plus in farm rental income from the husband's mom reach plea agreement

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WILLMAR -- The case against a Richfield couple accused of misappropriating an elderly relative's farm income was settled Monday.

Kathlyn Van Der Bill, 59, must pay a fine and restitution, as well as serve a short jail term, for her role in wrongfully obtaining public assistance on behalf of her mother-in-law.

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A charge against Duaine Van Der Bill, 68, of wrongfully obtaining assistance will be dismissed once a plea agreement is finalized.

The Van Der Bills are alleged to have fraudulently obtained more than $33,000 worth of Medical Assistance for Duaine Van Der Bill's mother, who was in a nursing home, by failing to report farm rental income on land his mother owned.

An investigation was launched a year ago after Kandiyohi County Family Services received an anonymous tip that Duaine Van Der Bill "was bragging that he was receiving farm rental income from land owned by his parents," court records said.

The money should have been reported as income when the Van Der Bills, who had power of attorney for his mother, applied in 2002 for Medical Assistance on her behalf. But the income was not disclosed on application forms signed by Kathlyn Van Der Bill, nor was it reported on subsequent renewal applications.

According to court records, the Van Der Bills deposited the money into their own bank account, using much of it to pay real estate taxes.

There is no indication that Van Der Bill's mother was aware of what was happening. She died in a Willmar nursing home in March 2008 at the age of 97. Duaine Van Der Bill was her only child.

All told, more than $33,000 in Medical Assistance was overpaid for her care from 2002 through 2007.

The Van Der Bills' attorney sought to have the charges against Duaine Van Der Bill dismissed, saying there was no direct evidence he intentionally concealed the rental income from the 70.5 acres of farmland in which his mother held a life interest.

The anonymous tip that led to the investigation also was challenged as hearsay. In a ruling earlier this year, a judge agreed to exclude the contents of that tip but ruled it could be brought up in the courtroom as part of the sequence of events.

The Van Der Bills cooperated with the investigation and are repaying the money.

As part of the plea agreement for Kathlyn Van Der Bill, she was convicted on one count of wrongfully obtaining assistance. A second charge of wrongfully obtaining assistance, two counts of perjury and one count of financially exploiting a vulnerable adult were dismissed. Her jail sentence of four days includes credit for the four days she has already served.

Judge Kathryn N. Smith also placed Kathlyn Van Der Bill on unsupervised probation for five years. If she successfully completes probation, the felony charge against her will be reduced to a misdemeanor.

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Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at http://healthbeat.areavoices.com. Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

(320) 235-1150
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