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Glenwood woman charged in two swindling schemes

Jana Zenner of Glenwood is accused of swindling the Brooten Commercial Club and an elderly man in separate schemes to allegedly steal about $185,000. She’s now facing felony charges in Pope and Stearns counties.

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Zenner

ST. CLOUD — A Glenwood woman is accused of swindling the Brooten Commercial Club of more than $100,000 and using the money to prop up her own businesses.

Jana Mae Zenner, 38, made her first appearance Monday in Stearns County District Court on a felony charge of theft by swindle.

According to court records, she was released on her own recognizance on the condition she remain law abiding and attend all future court hearings. Her next court hearing is Jan. 10, 2020.

Zenner 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.

Zenner also faces a felony theft-by-swindle charge in Pope County. She is charged with swindling a man in his late 80s. She was to be helping him pay his bills, but his bank noted many larger checks written from his account, too. From January through March this year, checks to Zenner, her family and her businesses totaled nearly $49,000, according to court records.

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Her next court appearance on that charge is Nov. 12.

Zenner is a former chief executive of the Brooten Commercial Club, which is a charitable gambling operation in Brooten. She resigned Dec. 31, 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.

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.

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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.

In 42 years in the newspaper industry, Linda Vanderwerf has worked at several daily newspapers in Minnesota, including the Mesabi Daily News, now called the Mesabi Tribune in Virginia. Previously, she worked for the Las Cruces Sun-News in New Mexico and the Rapid City Journal in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She has been a reporter at the West Central Tribune for nearly 27 years.

Vanderwerf can be reached at email: lvanderwerf@wctrib.com or phone 320-214-4340
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