Father-in-law among co-workers laid off as Faribault accountant stole $400K

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 1, 2013 - 9:54 PM

A Faribault man is sentenced to nearly 3 years for forgery that led firm to lay off workers, including his father-in-law.

A 39-year-old accountant has been sentenced to nearly three years in prison for stealing from his employer to fuel a lavish lifestyle even as his father-in-law and other workers were being laid off.

Ronald L. Schaeffer, of Faribault, was sentenced Tuesday in federal court in Minneapolis to two years and nine months in prison for committing bank fraud totaling more than $400,000 while he was the in-house accountant for Environmental Tillage Systems Inc. (ETS) of Faribault. The sentence orders Schaeffer to make full restitution to ETS.

Schaeffer pleaded guilty in January to stealing money from August 2008 to April 2012 to build a lake house in Elysian, Minn. By forging about 100 checks ranging from $400 to $12,000, he also made payments on home equity and car loans, paid membership dues to a golf club, took vacations, sent his children to private school “and generally enjoy[ed] a lifestyle well above his means,” according to a prosecution filing.

Meanwhile, the struggling company let employees go, froze pay and put off buying new safety equipment.

Defense attorney Marsh Halberg argued for no prison time, noting that Schaeffer “became addicted and lost control of himself [and] intends to make full restitution to ETS.”

News of the bank fraud cost Schaeffer his accounting job, and he was forced to give up his substitute teaching position with the Faribault School District, Halberg wrote.

Kevin Born, CEO for ETS, said Wednesday that the thievery by the company’s “most trusted employee” was responsible for about nine layoffs, some of them seasonal. Schaeffer’s father-in-law was laid off for six months.

Thanks to a rebounding economy, especially in agriculture, ETS is thriving now, Born said.

 

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

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