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Former Bertha branch manager sentenced for embezzlement

A former vice president and branch manager of a Todd County bank was sentenced last week in federal court in St. Paul for embezzlement.

On July 17, Kenneth Marlyn Ashbaugh, the former vice president and branch manager of the Star Bank in Bertha, was sentenced for stealing $80,000 from the bank, according to a press release on the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) website.

United States District Court Judge Donovan W. Frank sentenced Ashbaugh, 68, of Bertha, to five years of probation, along with 30 days in a county jail, six months of home confinement, and 500 hours of community service on one count of bank theft. In addition, Ashbaugh was ordered to pay more than $102,000 in restitution.

Ashbaugh was charged Jan. 27, and pleaded guilty on March 5.

Following the July 17 sentencing, J. Chris Warrener, special agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Minneapolis Field Office, said, "Today's sentence of Mr. Ashbaugh serves as a culmination of the fine investigative efforts which were put forth by investigators from both the Todd County Sheriff's Office and the FBI."

In his plea agreement, Ashbaugh admitted that from Sep. 1, 2010 through June 1, 2011, he stole approximately $80,000 from the bank. In addition, Ashbaugh admitted that during the same period, he fraudulently obtained loans from the bank by misrepresenting either the identity of the individual applying for the loan or the applicant's ability to repay the loan.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly A. Svendsen.

Todd County Sheriff Pete Mikkelson said his department was not involved in the case since the March guilty plea. The joint investigation with the FBI took place starting Sept. 2011.

Jeanne Cooney, office spokesperson of the U.S. Attorney's Office - District of Minnesota, said it has been her anecdotal observation that there has been an increase in prosecutions nationally for financial crimes. She said she wasn't sure whether the cases themselves are more frequent or if the increase is due to stronger enforcement.

"Prosecuting these offenders is important, especially now in light of how so many law-abiding citizens are struggling financially," Cooney said.