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Dave Kolpack, Published March 05 2009

West Fargo man gets eight months for fertilizer theft

FARGO (AP) – A man who pocketed $642,000 by selling liquid fertilizer he stole from his employer must serve eight months in prison, a federal judge says.

U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson sentenced Larry Schrader, 70, of West Fargo, to the prison term Thursday, and ordered eight months of electronic home monitoring to follow. Schrader had pleaded guilty to one felony count of transportation of stolen goods.

Authorities said Schrader stole the fertilizer from the ConAgra Foods outlet in Moorhead, where he worked as sales manager, and sold it through his own business, NC Marketing. Schrader said the scheme lasted more than nine years.

“I would just like to apologize for what I did to ConAgra,” Schrader said during Thursday’s sentencing hearing. “I would like to apologize to my family for putting them through this, the embarrassment.”

Erickson said it was a significant property crime because it involved a lot of money over a long time. But the judge said the 30-month prison sentence recommended by prosecutors would put too much of a burden on social services to care for Schrader’s family.

Erickson decided to postpone a hearing on restitution.

Schrader faced a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Prosecutors asked for a sentence of 30 months in prison.

“Larry Schrader’s not a bad man, judge,” defense attorney Steven Mottinger told Erickson. “He’s made some bad mistakes.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Klemetsrud Puhl said Schrader often would order workers to replace the stolen fertilizer with water and tell them not to record the transaction.

“This created a tremendous amount of stress on the employees,” Puhl said.

Mottinger said alcoholism and depression played a part in Schrader’s decisions. Schrader rebuilt a failing facility to make it productive and profitable, but felt he lacked support from ConAgra, Mottinger said.

“That’s not an excuse. In the end, he owned up to it,” Mottinger said.

“This defendant came forward with this information only when presented with incriminating evidence,” Puhl countered.

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