Pennock, Minn., woman gets jail, fine in $68,000 theft from employer
WILLMAR -- Christy Lynn Arends, 43, of Pennock, was sentenced Friday on a felony charge of theft by swindle for taking more than $68,000 from a Willmar business by charging personal expenses, including car payments and vacations, on a company-pai...
WILLMAR -- Christy Lynn Arends, 43, of Pennock, was sentenced Friday on a felony charge of theft by swindle for taking more than $68,000 from a Willmar business by charging personal expenses, including car payments and vacations, on a company-paid credit card, giving herself an unauthorized pay raise and bonus money.
She was sentenced to 60 days in jail, 10 years of probation, a $5,000 fine and 100 hours of community service. As part of her sentence handed down in Kandiyohi County District Court by District Judge Michael J. Thompson, Arends was ordered to write an apology letter and serve the jail time immediately.
Arends was not ordered to pay restitution in the case. A state appeals court decision in the case found that a separate civil case settlement between Arends and Divine House precluded the state from seeking restitution in the criminal case.
Before handing down the sentence, Thompson didn't have much good to say to Arends. "How you think you could buy a car and go on vacation on your employer's dime is beyond me," he said. He also noted that it was "unbelievable" that someone could believe they were allowed to take between $40,000 and $60,000 from their employer in a short period of 18 months.
Arends did not speak in the Friday afternoon hearing and her attorney, John Mack, argued that she should receive staggered sentencing, with annual reviews to determine if jail time was required.
Assistant County Attorney Stephen Wentzell asked Thompson to fine Arends for $8,971, the total amount included in the one theft count to which Arends pleaded guilty in a plea agreement.
A decision not to fine Arends, Wentzell argued, would allow the woman to keep the proceeds of what she stole. "She apparently wants to live a life that includes cruises and vacations without the money to do so," he argued.
The charges were filed after a Willmar police officer was called to Central Minnesota Senior Care, an affiliated company of Divine House, on March 28, 2008. A group of people including Debra Shriver, the owner of Divine House, met with the officer.
The group reported that Arends, as an employee of the senior care business, had fraudulently obtained a credit card jointly in her name and Divine House and had made $40,429 in purchases for her personal benefit between January 2007 and March 2008. The purchases had been discovered during an annual audit, in which credit card statements appeared to be altered and different than those provided by the credit card company.
The transactions included a $4,275 payment on a timeshare, $1,080 for a computer and accessories, $1,150 to a collection agency, $2,525 for a truck transmission, $2,800 for a cruise, $2,518 for a trip to Mexico, a total of $7,000 in payments for two vehicles, $5,520 for a new furnace and $2,547 for eye surgery.
The transactions included numerous cash advances and other smaller purchases.
Two police detectives executed a search warrant Aug. 20, 2008, on Arends' home and seized from the home a computer and accessories, game system, televisions and other items purchased with the credit card. They also photographed a 2006 300 M sedan, a 2006 Dodge pickup, and a Bryant furnace in the basement of the home. The credit card had been used for $7,423 in down payments and accessories for the vehicles and $5,520 for the furnace.
The original complaint was amended in November 2009 to include two additional theft charges as the investigation had revealed that Arends had given herself a raise of $3 per hour from March 2007 to March 2008 at a total cost of $15,967.64 and she had paid herself $8,400 in bonuses.
Arends, through her attorney, claimed she had a letter -- signed by Susan Jensen, as the business office manager -- that gave Arends permission to use the credit card from the business as a form of wage.
In a victim impact statement Friday, Jensen said that Arends forged the letter and that the senior care business had to borrow money from Divine House to stay in business because of Arends' theft. Once Arends was no longer employed, Jensen noted, the senior care business made enough money to pay those loans back.