Former Willow River city clerk accused of theftThe former Willow River city clerk will make her first court appearance next week on a charge that she stole more than $167,000 from the city to support a gambling problem.
By: News Tribune staff, Duluth News Tribune
The former Willow River city clerk will make her first court appearance next week on a charge that she stole more than $167,000 from the city to support a gambling problem.
Mary Angela Leonard, 56, was charged earlier this month with a single felony count of theft by swindle.
According to court documents, the swindle was discovered after Northview Bank informed the city Aug. 13 that Leonard was cashing multiple city checks written to her. City Council member Tom Jensen reviewed bank records for 2007 through 2012. Starting in 2009, he found checks written out to Leonard.
Jensen spoke with Leonard on Aug. 14 and told her that she was suspended.
Leonard “told him that she has a gambling problem and admitted to stealing money,” the criminal complaint said. “The defendant stated she was glad it was over and stated she felt she was stealing from everyone in Willow River.”
Leonard had been city clerk for about 11 years.
Pine County Sheriff Sgt. Jeff Nelson later met with Leonard and her attorney. In a voluntary statement, Leonard said she would write a check to herself and sign the mayor’s name on it. She would then record the check stem under a legitimate account.
“The defendant stated she did this up until about June of 2012,” the complaint said. “The defendant stated after June of 2012 she didn’t log the checks in the city computer at all.”
The city’s normal procedure for issuing checks is to present them at a City Council meeting, where the council would agree to pay them. Leonard didn’t do that with the fraudulent checks “and no one noticed the gap in the checks,” the complaint said.
“The defendant stated at first she did not realize it was wrong but that about a year ago she thought about it but continued to do it anyway,” the complaint said. “The defendant stated she only took funds out of the city’s checking account and never took any money from the savings or CDs.”
An accounting report determined that Leonard took $167,560.65 without authorization from May 2009 through August 2012.
Leonard told investigators that she spent all the money she took at Grand Casino in Hinckley, Black Bear Casino in Carlton or to pay bills, with the bulk going to Grand Casino.
She is scheduled to make her first court appearance April 2.