Maple Grove City Council member under investigation

  • Article by: DAVID CHANEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 13, 2012 - 9:43 PM

A sibling alleges LeAnn Sargent took about $285,000 from a family trust since 2008.

Police are investigating longtime Maple Grove City Council Member LeAnn Sargent after she was accused by a sibling of stealing several hundred thousand dollars from their elderly father's trust fund.

Sargent's half-brother, Robert Bobleter Jr., went to authorities after he found only $346.30 in a "significantly funded" trust after their father died in March, according to a search warrant affidavit filed in court Oct. 1. Sargent had power of attorney over the trust and was a co-trustee with her half-brother.

Police discovered that since 2008, Sargent paid herself nearly $200,000 in cash advances from her father's credit card or checking account and spent $86,000 from an account for unusual purchases, such as spa services and expensive purses, the document said.

No charges have been filed against Sargent, and the Hennepin County attorney's office hasn't received the case for review. The case is being heard in probate court, and the next hearing is Oct. 24.

Chris Ritts, Sargent's attorney, said the allegations come from a disgruntled brother who wanted a larger share of his father's money. Bobleter Jr. didn't return a reporter's telephone calls for comment.

"Everything is pretty explainable," said Ritts. "I think the timing of these allegations before she is running for re-election was disgusting and calculated. It's vindictive."

The case is being investigated by the Eden Prairie Police Department to avoid a conflict of interest. Sargent, 62, has been a council member since 1991 and has the longest tenure of Maple Grove's four council members. She is a licensed real estate broker, and Ritts said she also sells Miche handbags.

Sargent continues to serve as a council member, said Maple Grove Mayor Mark Steffenson. "At this point, the fight is in probate court over the division of assets, and she wouldn't need to be removed from the council," said Steffenson.

What the document says

According to the search warrant affidavit:

In 2006, Robert Bobleter Sr. and his son put together a will and trust document placing all his assets into a trust and naming Bobleter Jr. trustee. If Bobleter Sr. became incapacitated or died, Sargent would become a co-trustee.

In July 2008, the will was amended to make Sargent a co-trustee; she would become the sole trustee if Bobleter Sr. became incapacitated. She also was given power of attorney, and in 2010, the will again was amended, giving Sargent a greater portion of the money.

Bobleter Sr. died in March. A doctor told police that he had been living with Sargent and receiving in-home hospice care since 2010.

The son told police he was concerned that Sargent took out money a few days before their father died to repay a mortgage on a townhouse she was going to inherit, the document said. Sargent and her husband filed for bankruptcy in February 2011. At the time, they said in a sworn affidavit that they weren't receiving any money from Bobleter Sr. and didn't expect to inherit any money after his death.

Detectives started to review Sargent's financial records from 2008 to the present and found 27 cash advances from her father's credit card totaling $97,730. Sargent withdrew another $110,000 from her father's bank account, and 43 checks worth $56,850 were written from an account directly to Sargent or to pay bills, the document said. Nearly $18,000 was used to pay for spa services and Miche handbags.

Ritts said the spa services were gifts to her children or grandchildren and that handbags were bought to start a business. Much of the money was also to pay taxes and medical, legal and insurance expenses, and to maintain two other properties owned by Bobleter Sr. he said.

Ritts said Bobleter Jr. refused to care for or even visit his father, even though he lived a few blocks away. He also said the father was mentally sound.

He said Sargent has cooperated with the investigation.

"LeAnn is very upset over this," he said. "She looks like she has really aged in the weeks since I've met her."

David Chanen • 612-673-4465

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