Group-home embezzler sentenced

  • Article by: JAMES WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 8, 2011 - 10:46 PM

The owner of a social services company drained workers' retirement funds to prop up his failing business.

As his former employees -- his former friends -- stepped forward to recount how he had stolen their financial futures, Delroy Joseph Sand Jr. wiped his eyes.

The former owner of Hecla Inc. took more than $646,000 from his workers' retirement accounts to prop up his failing business, which provided adult foster care, group homes and mental health services in Minnesota.

Nothing, they said, will help them now. Not even the 41-month sentence that U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson handed down in St. Paul on Thursday.

"Whether he serves one day, five years or 10 million years, nothing changes the fact that multiple lives have been altered by what he's done," one longtime employee said.

Said another, Shirley Stenerson, who was forced into bankruptcy after Sand raided her 401K for more than $200,000 and attached her name to a loan that prompted collectors to come after her: "He lied to me. He cheated me out of my retirement. He stole my future."

Other former employees told of Sand begging for money, promising repayment and, finally, of avoiding them and denying responsibility.

According to Manny Atwal, Sand's defense attorney, Sand is a good man who devoted his life to helping people in need -- who began "robbing Peter to pay Paul" when his business became overextended. She added that he has promised to do whatever he can to repay all the money he took. Atwal argued for a lighter sentence.

But William Otteson, an assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted the case, asked Magnuson to sentence Sand to six years in prison. There might be bigger cases of theft, he said, "but I am hard-pressed to find one where the conduct is so egregious."

Otteson disagreed that Sand used all the stolen funds to prop up his business, noting that he made numerous cash withdrawals over the time of the thefts.

Magnuson called Sand "one of the most complex enablers I have ever seen in a courtroom." He described the 63-year-old as one who is intelligent and talented who also "did very bad things. Magnuson said Sand he got involved in something that "rolled downhill, it mushroomed and blew up ... and got totally out of hand."

Before he was sentenced, Sand said he had "a great deal of affection for the people I have affected. I'm sorry. I have no excuses."

James Walsh • 612-673-7428

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