Vets service officer pleads to theft chargeWILLMAR — The Kandiyohi County Veterans Service Officer entered an Alford plea Wednesday to a felony theft charge for taking money veterans paid for bus rides to the Veteran Affairs hospital.
By: Gretchen Schlosser, West Central Tribune, Worthington Daily Globe
WILLMAR — The Kandiyohi County Veterans Service Officer entered an Alford plea Wednesday to a felony theft charge for taking money veterans paid for bus rides to the Veteran Affairs hospital.
Trisha Lynn Appeldorn, 34, of Pennock, entered the plea, which means she did not admit to the crime but agreed there was sufficient evidence to prove the elements of the offense, during what was supposed to be an omnibus hearing in Kandiyohi County District Court. An Alford plea is entered as a conviction.
As part of a plea agreement, she will receive a stay of adjudication on her sentence. Under the stay, the conviction will not appear on her record if she complies with the court’s conditions.
Judge Kathryn N. Smith ordered a pre-sentence investigation and ordered Appeldorn to cooperate with the investigation. Smith set sentencing for Oct. 2.
During the 15-minute hearing, Appeldorn gave short answers to questions from the judge; her attorney, Tom Anderson; and Rich Ronning, the Willmar city attorney who has been named a special assistant county attorney to prosecute the case. She acknowledged that she made statements to a Willmar police officer that led the officer to believe she took the bus money, and that the state has physical evidence against her that would be presented to a jury if she stood trial in the matter.
Appeldorn had been placed on paid administrative leave from her county post, but was allowed to go back to her job in April. Kandiyohi County Administrator Larry Kleindl has said an internal investigation would be delayed until the court process is completed.
The theft charge was filed Feb. 11 after a Willmar Police Department detective met Jan. 25 with Kleindl regarding missing funds from the veterans service office. Kleindl explained that veterans pay $10 per trip, given to the bus driver, to ride a county bus to the VA hospital. The bus driver in turn would give the cash and checks to the veterans service office on a daily basis. Then the funds would be turned over to the county auditor for deposit.
Kleindl had been advised that there had been no deposits since June 2007 and told the detective that Appeldorn had showed up in his office that morning of Jan. 25 with a big wad of cash.
The detective met with both Kleindl and Appeldorn later the same day. Appeldorn explained that she had simply been putting the envelopes with the bus receipts in a drawer and that she didn’t get around to making up the deposits and taking them to the auditor’s office.
She further explained that she had taken the materials home the night before and got everything together and then brought the money into Kleindl’s office.
On Jan. 28, the detective was informed by County Auditor Sam Modderman that the $2,284 that had been turned in was $214 short of the $2,498 in receipts issued by the bus driver.
On Jan. 30, the detective met with Appeldorn, who admitted that she had taken small amounts of money from the bus receipts and that the total must have been around $200.