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Man faces felony charges for hosting cancer benefit, but keeping the money

WILLMAR -- A 34-year-old Minneapolis man made his first appearance Monday on two felony charges of theft for allegedly hosting a benefit for a friend who died of cancer and then keeping the money for himself.

Ryan Albert Stark faces charges of theft by swindle and theft in Kandiyohi County District Court.

He was released on his personal recognizance. His next court date is April 13.

According to the complaint, the Kandiyohi County Sheriff's Office received a theft report on Nov. 13. A woman re-ported that her daughter, Shelly J. Garberich, had died in 2006 and that the woman now had custody of Garberich's three children.

The children were supposed to receive the proceeds of a benefit organized by a group of people, including Stark, held in Willmar, also in 2006.

One of the children had attempted to contact Stark to get money from the benefit, which raised about $5,000, for a computer to use for college. The woman had communicated with Stark and learned that the account was worth only $3,000, but that he would send a $900 money order for the computer. The money order never arrived.

A detective researched the report and learned that Garberich was diagnosed with terminal cancer in March 2006 and that the benefit was in September. According to Tribune archives, she died on July 19, 2006.

Investigators executed a search warrant on Stark's accounts at an area bank and the information allegedly showed that $5,355 was deposited in an account that he controlled with Garberich's name on it. The account was closed, but not before $2,260 was moved to Stark's personal and business accounts and $3,000 was spent, via debit card, at various businesses.