Alleged theft of $100,000 from a township and a Sunburg, Minnesota, church leads to charges against sisters
Debra Kaye Hamborg, 60, of Sunburg, is charged in Kandiyohi County District Court for allegedly embezzling funds from Sunburg Free Lutheran Church and Norway Lake Township, totaling nearly $100,000 over five years. Her sister Annette Marie Dingmann, 59, of Benson, is charged with theft for accepting more than $18,000 in allegedly stolen funds.
WILLMAR — A Sunburg woman and her sister each are facing multiple felony theft charges that allege the embezzlement of nearly $100,000 from a church and a township.
Debra Kaye Hamborg, 60, of Sunburg , and Annette Marie Dingmann, 59, of Benson , in their most recent Kandiyohi County District Court hearings each waived their constitutional rights to a separate attorney.
The two appeared March 21 in omnibus hearings over Zoom from the office of attorney Theresa Jean Walton Patock, of Willmar.
Hamborg is charged with 19 counts of felony theft and theft by swindle for allegedly misappropriating nearly $100,000 of combined funds during her time as bookkeeper for Sunburg Free Lutheran Church and treasurer of Norway Lake Township.
Dingmann is charged with 10 similar felony counts plus two misdemeanor theft charges. The amounts listed in her charges total more than $18,000 allegedly deposited in accounts held jointly by her and other family members. The other family members are not charged with any wrongdoing.
Charges against Hamborg were first filed in October, and the charges against Dingmann were filed in November.
Dingmann pleaded not guilty to all charges Tuesday, according to court records, while Hamborg has not yet entered a plea to any of the charges against her.
During the hearing Tuesday, Judge Jennifer Fischer said that the women are not listed as co-defendants and she specifically outlined to each of them the possible perils of dual representation, such as an attorney favoring one client or limiting claims the attorney can make in the defense of each.
Hamborg and Dingmann during their hearings each verbally waived their right to another attorney.
The next hearings for both women are set for the morning of April 27, one after the other.
According to the criminal complaint against Dingmann, both women said there was an arrangement for Hamborg to transfer money to Dingmann. Hamborg during one interview with law enforcement said she had on her own supported Dingmann and two of Dingmann's family members for quite some time after Dingmann lost her job.
The complaint did not specify Hamborg's full-time employment. She said she was paid $300 per month as township treasurer, plus $50 per meeting, and that her services to the church were unpaid.
Dingmann in a separate interview said she suffered identify theft and that led to financial hardship, and that she had been using the church and township money provided by Hamborg to support her family, according to the complaint.
The alleged theft from Sunburg Free Lutheran Church totals more than $81,000 over five years from 2018 to 2022, according to the complaint. It states there were fraudulent checks or charges totaling more than $18,000 from Norway Lake Township over two years, from 2020 to 2022.
According to the criminal complaint against Hamborg, a deputy met Feb. 2, 2022, with a member of the Sunburg Free Lutheran Church who said that a Benson bank had notified him about suspicious checks being cashed.
The checks, totaling $4,500 within 30 days, were allegedly written out by Hamborg and made to Dingmann, two other family members and an account for a Sunburg dairy farm. According to the church member, Hamborg was the only person with access to the church’s checks.
On Feb. 3, the deputy followed up the report by speaking with Hamborg at her residence.
According to the complaint, Hamborg stated that she knew the deputy was there because she wrote a check she should not have. She then said that her sister, Dingmann, had issues with finances after being the victim of identity theft and she wrote checks to help her out.
At that time, Hamborg had been bookkeeping for the Sunburg Free Lutheran Church for more than six years, according to the complaint.
Hamborg voluntarily provided carbon copy booklets and the checkbook to the deputy.
The carbon copies of the checks showed that a total of $47,000 of checks had been written to the three family members and the dairy farm from May 2, 2021, through May 2, 2022.
Another bank provided copies of checks from the Sunburg Free Church account from 2016 to 2018. Bank staff estimated that the amount the church lost was higher than the one provided on the copies, according to the complaint.
According to the complaint against Dingmann, a detective on Feb. 8, 2022, made contact with a member of the Norway Lake Township Board , who said that a review of township finances had begun due to suspicions that Hamborg was embezzling funds.
According to the board member, some checks were issued to several relatives of Hamborg. He explained the township signs checks only at monthly meetings and that checks issued on other dates would be suspect.
He said the Norway Lake Township account is set up to require signatures of both the chairperson and the treasurer on checks. He suspected that Hamborg had been forging the chairperson’s signature.
A partner in the dairy farm told the investigating detective that he noticed numerous checks over the past few years had been written from their farm checking account to two of his family members, including Dingmann. He said large deposits going into the farm account were comparable to the checks written out to the two relatives, according to the complaint.
Both Dingmann and Hamborg are currently on release with conditions, including exclusion from the Sunburg Free Lutheran Church and the Norway Lake Township building, having no contact with church leadership or township board members, and not handling other people's finances.