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Rock Rapids man pleads in two Nobles County cases

WORTHINGTON -- A Rock Rapids, Iowa, man charged in five separate cases in three counties during 2009 pleaded guilty Monday to a felony check forging charge in Nobles County District Court.

Jonathan Carlos Wood, 32, admitted he had written and signed 10 checks between Dec. 11, 2008, and Jan. 17, 2009, using his nephew's account.

"Why did you do this?" Judge Jeffrey Flynn asked. "Was it just flat-out criminal behavior?"

Wood claimed his nephew was aware he was using his account and had asked him to use his checkbook to go buy things for him, including beer.

"He said you could sign his name?" Flynn questioned.

Public defender Terry Vajgrt, noting Flynn's incredulous reaction to Wood's confession, explained that Minnesota law states signing someone else's name to a check is still against the law, even if the person forging the name has permission to do so.

"If (he) was in on this, why did he call the cops?" Flynn asked.

The complaint states the victim contacted authorities and reported his checkbook and an expired driver's license had been stolen. Wood said he believed his brother-in-law found out and was upset with his son, who called the cops to avoid being disciplined.

"So you're going to fall on the sword for this kid?" Flynn asked. "This is a felony. You can't hunt, can't vote, can't sit on a jury. I find this a little difficult to believe. This is a lifetime consequence because some kid doesn't want to get in trouble with his dad."

When asked if the nephew was too young to purchase alcohol on his own, Wood denied it, telling the judge his nephew was 22 years old.

Vajgrt explained that using the plea agreement was in Wood's best interest, since three felony charges in another case were being dismissed in the agreement. Wood had also just pleaded guilty in a Rock County case.

"What was that for?" Flynn asked.

"It had to do with a credit card," Wood said, then told the judge the card in question belonged to a friend of his.

"Did you have permission to sign his name?" Flynn pursued.

"No, I did not," Wood replied.

"I have a real question about whether you're telling me the truth, here," Flynn stated, but eventually accepted the guilty plea.

The agreement is for a stay of imposition on the sentence, on the conditions Wood serves 90 days in jail and pays restitution of both Nobles County files for a total of $1,721. He would also serve five years probation with no criminal violations.

Flynn ordered a pre-sentence investigation before sentencing takes place.

The case dismissed in the agreement was in regards to Wood allegedly purchasing a TV with a forged check at one store, then trading it in at another store for a smaller TV and some cash. The victim's daughter noticed her mother's bank statement total was lower than it should be and went through the processed checks until she found the one written for the TV. She told authorities she did now know how Wood had gotten a check from her mother's account.

Wood was sentenced in December to two years probation on the Rock County case. In June he was pleaded guilty to check forgery in Jackson County and was sentenced to 180 days in jail, with 165 days stayed for two years. A theft by swindle charge in Jackson County appears to be pending, according to MNCIS, the Minnesota court document filing system.