Editor's note: This story has been updated since its original posting with additional information about a plea agreement in the case.
ST. CLOUD — A Glenwood woman pleaded guilty Monday to swindling the Brooten Commercial Club of more than $100,000 and using the money to prop up her own businesses.
Jana Mae Zenner, 38, appeared before Judge Nathaniel Welte in St. Cloud on a Stearns County charge of felony theft by swindle and changed her plea to guilty.
According to information from the Stearns County Attorney’s office, part of Zenner's plea includes an agreement for a 27-month sentence to be stayed during a five-year probationary period and payment of $45,000 of restitution, contingent on Zenner paying the restitution before sentencing.
Zenner is required to cooperate with a presentence investigation ordered by Welte, and sentencing is scheduled for July 14.
Zenner earlier this year also pleaded guilty to a felony charge of theft by swindle for taking nearly $50,000 from a man in his 80s.
Zenner, a former chief executive of the Brooten Commercial Club, is accused of manipulating charitable gambling games and proceeds to swindle about $136,000 from the commercial club, according to the criminal complaint in court files. The theft is estimated to have taken place between May 2016 and December 2018.
Three state agencies were involved in the investigation after alleged irregularities were found in the club’s gambling — the Gambling Control Board, Department of Revenue and Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, according to court records.
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In December 2018, Revenue Department investigators found that 192 pull tab games were unaccounted for.
In January 2019, the new gambling manager allegedly told an investigator that she had found the club was not using internal controls to protect its finances. The manager said she felt Zenner was trying to insert herself back in the gambling operation and had been reluctant to turn over keys to the secure storage room for games.
After she demanded the keys, the manager said, she allegedly found only 11 games when there should have been 160.
The manager also found $25,000 missing from the club’s bank account and learned the club had failed to pay rent to several local businesses, according to court records.
When interviewed, Zenner allegedly admitted that she began stealing pull tab money in fall 2017 and did so until audits started in 2018. She said she hadn’t kept records but estimated she had stolen from $30,000 to $50,000.
A thorough audit found that the missing money in net receipts totaled nearly $136,000.
According to court records, she said unplayed games in the storage unit were actually played games, and she had kept the proceeds and destroyed records. Zenner also used packaging supplies and stickers she printed to camouflage her repackaging of games.
Zenner allegedly told investigators she had burned the repackaged games.
According to court records, Zenner said she had taken the money to keep her Brooten businesses afloat.