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Faribault man pleads guilty to bank fraud, writing hundreds of thousand of dollars in checks to himself

MINNEAPOLIS—Last week in federal court, a 39-year-old Faribault man pleaded guilty to writing 127 fraudulent checks to himself. Ronald Leo Schaeffer pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud in connection to the crime. Schaeffer was charged on December 6, 2012, and entered his plea before United States District Court Judge David S. Doty.

In his plea agreement, Schaeffer admitted that from August 2008 through April 2012, he stole approximately $432,504.10 from his employer, Environmental Tillage Systems Inc. (ETS). ETS, an agricultural manufacturing company in Faribault, hired Schaeffer as its sole in-house accountant. Among other duties, he was responsible for using the QuickBooks accounting software to record information regarding payments owed by ETS to vendors and employees.

Schaeffer admittedly wrote approximately 127 fraudulent checks against the ETS checking account, in amounts ranging from approximately $400 to $12,000, for deposit into his personal account. To conceal his actions, he also made false entries in ETS’s QuickBooks accounting records in an effort to make it appear as if the checks were issued to legitimate ETS vendors.

For a period of time, Schaeffer had the authority to use a signature stamp to validate company checks. Beginning in November 2010, he was directed to obtain the actual signatures of ETS’s CEO or CFO on all checks before disbursing them. At that point, he began forging the signature of the CEO or CFO on any check he wrote to himself. He used the money he stole to build a lake home in Elysian, Minnesota, and make payments on his auto and home equity loans.

For his crime, Schaeffer faces a potential maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison, as well as possible fines and orders of forfeiture. Judge Doty will determine his sentence at a future hearing, yet to be scheduled.

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