A longtime Maple Grove City Council member learned Monday that she will spend May and June in the Hennepin County workhouse for financially exploiting her dying father.
Yet, LeAnn Bobleter Sargent said she wants to remain on the council.
One snag: She isn’t eligible for work release while in the workhouse unless the judge changes his sentencing order before she enters the workhouse May 6, said county spokeswoman Carolyn Marinan.
A council member for 24 years, she was re-elected in November 2012 while under criminal investigation involving her handling of her father’s money.
City Administrator Al Madsen said Sargent, 63, doesn’t have to quit the council and can’t be legally forced off the council. He said she has been a dedicated council member and that he sees her crime as a family matter, not something that involved the council.
“I haven’t discussed this with her. It’s her decision if she wants to stay,” Madsen said. Through her attorney, Chris Ritts, Sargent said she plans to stay on the City Council. Meetings are held twice a month at night. She makes $13,000 a year as a council member.
At Monday’s court hearing, District Court Judge Luis Bartolomei said he strongly considered sentencing her for a felony. He decided on a gross misdemeanor because that allows her to stay on the City Council and maintain her purse sales job. Work release eligibility wasn’t discussed.
Sargent received a year’s sentence, with all but four months stayed. With good behavior, she would serve 80 days. If she receives home monitoring for the last 20 days of her sentence, Sargent may be eligible for work release.
She was also ordered to pay restitution of $107,348 to her father’s estate and $12,918 to her half-brother, Robert Bobleter Jr. She has two years to pay the restitution while on probation.
Assistant county attorney Susan Crumb had asked for 20 years’ probation and a year in the workhouse.
Sargent was charged in January 2013 with three felony counts, accused of using her power of attorney to raid the trust fund for her own benefit from 2009 until days before her father, Robert Bobleter, died on March 12, 2012, at age 84. She pleaded guilty to a single count of financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult, and it was expected that she would receive probation with no jail time. She has no criminal record.
Police began investigating Sargent after Bobleter Jr. went to authorities after finding only $346 in their father’s trust after his death, according to court documents.
In 2011, Bobleter began receiving in-home health care from nurses and aides, but an investigation found he’d also signed a contract agreeing to pay his daughter $1,500 a month for personal care services and another agreement paying Sargent’s rent of $500 per month to live in her home.
She should have received a maximum of $24,000 in payment from her father but instead paid herself more than $50,000 in checks, cash withdrawals and cash advances against his credit card, the charges said. She also allegedly charged $14,794 to his credit card for purchases from Miche handbags for a home sales job.
The criminal complaint also alleges that as Bobleter neared death, Sargent took out a $58,000 mortgage on a paid-for Morrison County cabin her father had willed to her and her brother. He had also willed his Maple Grove home to Sargent, which still had an outstanding mortgage.
Sargent used the loan money to pay the mortgage on the Maple Grove townhouse March 5, 2012. A week later, her father died.
During Monday’s hearing, Sargent apologized to family, friends and the residents of Maple Grove. She said she had let her father down but believed she was honoring his wishes to live his last days at home being cared for by herself and her husband.
“This is an embarrassment,” she said. “I used my dad’s money to enhance my living situation. Please forgive me.”
LeAnn Bobleter, Sargent’s sister-in-law, told the judge she hadn’t shown any remorse. She was living for free in her father’s townhouse while the couple paid the mortgage on the cabin, she said.
The hearing took an odd turn when Bartolomei asked Sargent if she had honored the request of relatives to pay the bill for flowers at her father’s funeral. She had paid it, she said, and the judge then said that “gave me a sense where you are now.” A different answer would have produced a different sentence, he said.
“I see a person who has accomplished much,” he said. “The community put trust in you. That’s what makes this case more bewildering to me. You had a terrible lapse of what is right.”