Gambling Habit Led Minnesota Woman to Steal About $40K from Relief Fund

Posted on: November 18, 2021, 11:45h. 

Last updated on: November 18, 2021, 01:30h.

A 54-year-old Minnesota woman will avoid prison after repaying the approximately $40,000 she allegedly stole from the state’s Garrison Fire Department Relief Association. She has pleaded guilty to two theft charges and admitted she used the money to gamble.

Garrison Fire Dept. Truck
A firetruck from the Garrison Fire Department, pictured above. The Minnesota department’s relief association lost tens of thousands of dollars. The alleged thief has agreed to make restitution. (Image: Garrison Fire Department)

Under a plea bargain, Shawn Marie Luedtke said last week she will repay the money. If she fails to pay the cash, she faces a sentence of 180 days in jail.

Luedtke must make $37,283 in restitution and pay $7,175 to an unnamed gaming manager who investigated the books and found the inconsistencies.

Plot Got Out of Hand

She had planned to pay back the money after allegedly stealing it. Luedtke told the local sheriff’s office that the scheme “got out of hand.” But until the sheriff’s office got involved, no money was paid back. Luedtke told authorities she “mentally kept a running track” of the alleged thefts.

The gaming manager discovered inconsistencies in the association’s books in May 2019. He saw the issues when training a new worker.

The losses ranged from $1,671 to $7,476. They took place over 10 months. Soon, the manager told the new worker to report the inconsistencies to the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Office.

Luedtke said she got involved with the association’s bookkeeping after she assisted her husband with the accounting for the relief association.

It was also revealed no one else was watching the association’s bank statements. So, the issues went unnoticed until the gaming manager noticed them.

Luedtke’s attorney had claimed $15,000 was sufficient to cover the losses. The lawyer then filed a request to challenge $44,458 in restitution ordered by Crow Wing County District Judge Erik J. Askegaard. But the judge approved almost all of the damage claims from the association.

Relief Association Fined

Earlier, the Minnesota Gambling Control Board (MGCB) fined the relief association $2,697. It ruled the association did not put in place checks and balances to prevent embezzlement, according to the Brainerd Dispatch, a local newspaper.

Askegaard ruled that Luedtke was not responsible for paying the association back for the fine, the report adds.

Defendant did not cause this loss; but rather, Defendant’s actions caused the Gambling Control Board to become aware of the deficiencies in the victim’s ‘checks and balances processes’, and that is why the fine was assessed,” the judge wrote in his ruling.

The Garrison Fire Department Relief Association provides pension, disability, and death benefits to the department’s volunteer firefighters. Garrison is about 72 miles north of St. Cloud, Minn.