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Twins Cities man pleads in Kandiyhoi County District Court to stealing money from benefit held for dying friend

WILLMAR -- A Twin Cities man has pleaded guilty to charges connected to hosting a benefit for a dying friend and then keeping the money for himself instead of giving it to her children.

Ryan Albert Stark, 34, of Anoka pleaded guilty Thursday in Kandiyohi County District Court to a felony charge of theft - intent to exercise temporary control. A second felony theft charge was dismissed in a plea agreement.

Judge Michael Thompson set a July 30 sentencing date.

Charges were filed against Stark after a woman contacted authorities about a benefit he had helped organize for the woman's daughter, who died of cancer in 2006.

Stark had been asked by the woman who died to look after the money and hold it in an account until her children needed it to help with college.

The woman, who was looking after the daughter's three children, said she had asked Stark for $900 to purchase a computer for one of the children going to college.

He said he would send a money order, but the woman never received it.

Investigation indicated that the money in the account had been transferred to Stark's personal and business accounts and had also been spent at businesses.

The woman and her family filed an affidavit asking the court to order restitution of $5,382.

In an affidavit, the woman wrote that Stark stole from "the children of the woman who trusted him to take care of this after her death AND from every person that participated and/or donated to the benefit."

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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