A 75-year-old Cuyuna man will do some jail time, be on probation for two decades and must pay close to $41,000 in restitution to the local snowmobile club he stole from while he was the club's treasurer.
William Dale Leonhardt was convicted and sentenced May 23 in Crow Wing County District Court in Brainerd by Judge David Ten Eyck for felony corporate theft after stealing $41,678.11. Leonhardt pleaded guilty March 25 to stealing the money between the dates of May 14, 2013, and March 15, 2018, from the Sno-Serpents Snowmobile Club, a nonprofit volunteer club based in Deerwood. Leonhardt was a member of the snowmobile club for about 15-20 years.
The judge sentenced Leonhardt to 180 days in jail-with jail time to be served in a staggered sentence and dependent upon how much restitution is paid. A hearing to discuss how Leonhardt will pay the money back will be discussed at 1:30 p.m. July 16. According to court documents, additional 60-day jail segments may be determined in late April of 2020 and 2021, depending upon the amount of restitution paid.
Leonhardt also was placed on supervised probation for 20 years. If he violates any of the conditions of his probation, he could serve 21 months in the Minnesota Correctional Facility in St. Cloud. Conditions of his probation will include he must have no contact with the victims, cannot leave the state without written permission, cannot possess firearms or ammunition, cannot vote, must remain law abiding and must maintain contact with attorney.
Leonhardt was initially charged with eight felony theft charges but the remaining seven felonies were dismissed as part of the plea agreement.
According to the criminal complaint, an investigator met with Robert Geske and Dennis Muggli, president and vice president of the Sno-Serpents Snowmobile Club, on April 13, 2018, regarding a theft complaint. Geske turned over financial records and indicated Leonhardt was the treasurer for the club, beginning in 2009. In 2018, the club was in the process of purchasing a new groomer when it was learned by Leonhardt there were insufficient funds in the bank. Geske confronted Leonhardt, who confessed he has stolen money from the club, the complaint stated. Geske met with Leonhardt and took the accounting books away from him on March 20, 2018. In checking the bank records, Geske learned Leonhardt has written checks to himself, taking cash withdrawals with a debit card and kept cash when making deposits at the bank.
On April 24, 2018, the investigator obtained a voluntary statement from Leonhardt. Leonhardt stated he had been treasurer of the club since 2005 and only had access to the club checkbook and debit card. He stated three to four years ago, he began to experience financial difficulty. In 2010, his $130,000 severance package from Weyerhaeuser "ran out" and his monthly income was $1,910 from veterans benefit disability and social security.
In 2010, Leonhardt began taking money from the Sno-Serpent club, but was able to put the borrowed money back into the accounts, the complaint stated. Leonhardt stated he stole $20,000 from the club but intended to pay it back. The investigator advised him the figure cited by the club was between $54,000-$56,000. Leonhardt stated that was unlikely as the club does not take in that much in funds. Leonhardt agreed to accept it was possible he had stolen between $35,000-$40,000, the complaint stated.
The investigator showed Leonhardt the bank records provided by Geske. Leonhardt stated each check in the records written out to himself was done by him and was over $6,000 as the total indicates. Leonhardt cited medical bills, propane gas costs and bills overall as the reason for stealing the money from the snowmobile club.
Records provided by Geske show Leonhardt stole $41,678.11 from May 14, 2013, through March 15, 2018.
Muggli, who currently is the club's president, said in a telephone interview Friday, May 31, he would've liked to see more jail time for Leonhardt, but he understands how the judicial system works. Maggli, who has been a part of the club for 30 years, said it was his opinion Leonhardt believes he did nothing wrong.
"We are out of a lot of money and I doubt we will ever see it," Muggli said, as Leonhardt is 75-year-old, retired and he doesn't have a lot of assets.
Muggli said Leonhardt did not talk during the sentencing, but Muggli read the club's victim impact statement in court. Muggli said the club has 50 members who maintain the trails. What people don't understand, Muggli said, is the snowmobile clubs and trails are not maintained by taxpayers' dollars. The snowmobile clubs and trail system in Minnesota are self-sufficient and financed by the registration fees collected from the licensing of snowmobiles. This money is then distributed to the clubs depending on the number of trails the clubs groom and maintain. Any additional funding the clubs need is gathered through donations and fundraisers.
Muggli said the club maintains and grooms 85 miles of trail and, a few years ago, members began fundraising to save money for a new groomer. In March 2018, when the club voted to purchase a new groomer, they learned Leonhardt stole money from the club.
"The club has taken out a large loan from an area bank to cover our commitments and to finalize the purchase of the new groomer," Muggli said in his victim impact statement. "We have made changes to ensure that this could never happen again.
"I can't believe how close this club was to becoming a memory due to the selfish actions of one individual. We have lost membership because of this and I personally have lost good friends because of it. Mr. Geske and I have spent countless hours on this, taking time off from our jobs and lives, as I have again today, to cover our responsibilities as board members instead of using our free time for more enjoyable things, like snowmobiling. Our 501(c)(3) club is not like a business that is able to make more product and increase capital; we fundraise and scratch for every dollar we need to provide the service we offer to the sport of snowmobiling."
Muggli stated he was surprised even though Leonhardt stole money estimated at more than $60,000 over the past 10 years, the Crow Wing County Attorney's Office could only go back five years.
"To this day, Mr. Leonhardt has sold his boat, snowmobile and other items but has made no effort to reimburse any of the funds he had stolen," Muggli stated in the letter. "He continues to believe he has done nothing wrong. He has shown absolutely no remorse whatsoever. Records show he started taking funds almost as soon as he had control of the club's checkbook. He has told some members that what he has done is no big deal and the board was making more of an issue with this than it truly was.
"He should be considered for an Oscar for how he shows up in court. His cane is all show and he has the best hearing aids the VA's money will buy. Once out of the courtroom he is able to ride his ATV just fine, climb onto snowmobile trailers and is seen at the local bars and restaurants with no need of a cane whatsoever. I and other club members have witnessed this all personally. The man before you is nothing more than a con artist. Mr. Geske and I have also been harassed and threatened by members of Mr. Leonhardt's family, to the point of getting law enforcement involved."
Calls were made to Leonhardt 's attorney, Justin M. Braulick, based in St. Cloud, but he was unavailable for comment.