Juntunen faces felony charges of theft by swindleFormer Atkinson Township Supervisor Traci Ann Juntunen, 40, made her initial appearance Monday morning in Carlton County Court, in front of more than a dozen township members who sat in the first three rows of the courtroom.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
Former Atkinson Township Supervisor Traci Ann Juntunen, 40, made her initial appearance Monday morning in Carlton County Court, in front of more than a dozen township members who sat in the first three rows of the courtroom.
Because Juntunen said her retained attorney, David Keegan, could not be present, she represented herself during the very brief proceedings. Juntunen stated that she understood the charges filed against her – three counts of felony theft by swindle for allegedly submitting false claims for reimbursement while serving as township supervisor.
Although the monetary amount is not large for the alleged crimes – $300 for an Energy Efficiency Small Grants Program grant application, $250 for a deposit on blueprints for a new township building, and a $50 claim for a meeting in McGregor with draftsman Dave Johnson – they are charged as felonies because they involve public money.
Juntunen was elected to the Atkinson Township Board in March 2007 and served until her resignation was accepted in February of this year.
Also during Monday’s hearing, prosecuting attorney Leslie Beiers, assistant St. Louis County attorney, filed a discovery disclosure containing the investigative materials regarding the case, and a non-testimonial omnibus was set for 9 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 1. Beiers is prosecuting the case at the request of the Carlton County attorney’s office because they claim a conflict of interest.
This is not the first time Juntunen has been in court on charges relating to money. In February 2004, Juntunen was charged with forgery in Douglas County Circuit Court for altering a check from James Brundage from $9,000 to $19,000. According to the Superior Police report, Brundage had agreed to loan Juntunen $9,000 but later found that she changed the amount on the check and cashed it for the greater amount. However, while the original charge was felony forgery, Juntunen was only convicted of a misdemeanor theft of less than $2,500 on March 1, 2004.
The current felony charges came about after the Office of the State Auditor (OSA) investigated township disbursements for 2009 at the request of the town board after Board Chairman Terry Dearborn became suspicious of the validity of some of the receipts Juntunen had presented for reimbursement during the previous year.
According to the public version of the state auditor’s investigative report dated April 26, 2010, when OSA submitted copies of both the mileage claim for a meeting in McGregor and the claim for a deposit paid for building blueprints to draftsman Dave Johnson, Johnson told the OSA that the documentation was not from him, that the business name and logo were incorrect, it was not his signature and he did not issue separate receipts to his customers. He also told the OSA that he did not draw plans or blueprints for the township, and he did not receive $250 from Juntunen for work performed.
Johnson also provided the OSA with copies of an e-mail he said he received from Juntunen, dated Feb. 5, 2010, three days before she submitted her resignation to the town board.
Here is an excerpt from the e-mail, contained in the OSA investigative report:
“Hey there Dave, … I may have to swallow some crow or try to wiggle my way out of this, I did turn a bill for your services and take the money for it – How or why I am not sure … I may be up the creek on this one … I have to admit Dave I am embarrassed to even involve you in this, please accept my apology, none of this was by any means meant to be deceitful [sic] or stealing, as you know I had every intention of getting prints from you and doing this project as fast as we could …”
On May 28 of this year, according to the criminal complaint, an investigator from the Carlton County Sheriff’s Office interviewed Juntunen, who admitted to manufacturing a false receipt for blueprints, but said she had spent the money on miscellaneous township items. She also stated that the grant application fees for which she submitted claims were for the cost of copies, not application fees. The grants that Juntunen claimed to have applied for do not charge application fees.
Juntunen’s next court appearance is set for 9 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 1.