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Published June 17 2012

Minot bank officer accused in bank loan scheme

FARGO A Minot bank loan officer accused in a scheme to help companies obtain more than $3.7 million in bogus loans is innocent, his lawyer said.

Howard Palmer is charged in federal court with 22 counts, including bank fraud and false statements. He has pleaded not guilty.

Authorities said Palmer, 57, a loan officer and vice president for the Minot branch of American State Bank and Trust of Dickinson, lied to a committee about various loan applications. One of them is allegedly a $2.5 million loan for a Florida company involved in the sale of automobiles and automobile parts.

Palmer's defense attorney, Ryan Sandberg, said Friday in a statement that the charges are unfounded.

"He helped obtain loans on behalf of customers. In order to obtain these loans on behalf of the customers, he submitted the loan applications to the bank's loan committee, which approved the loans," Sandberg said. "Unfortunately, the customers defaulted on the loans."

U.S. Attorney Timothy Purdon declined comment.

Palmer's trial is scheduled for Aug. 14 in Bismarck. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison.

The indictment lists the gross proceeds obtained in the scheme at $3,720,150, but the document does not say what happened to the money.

Other than a regular salary, Sandberg said his client "never benefited in any way, either personally or financially, as a result of these loans."

The largest loan application was for $2.5 million for Florida-based Pure Glass, Inc. Investigators said Palmer falsely claimed in the application that the company president worked on a large retail development in Grand Forks. In addition, Palmer allegedly lied about the president's marital status.

Another loan worksheet Palmer completed for about $255,000 for Heintzman Manufacturing, Inc. claimed the money would be used for the initial start-up for a distribution facility in West Fargo. Palmer knew that was not true, the government said.

Palmer allegedly stated in another loan application for Glass Blast Media, Inc. that the nearly $250,000 was intended for buying trucks. Investigators said it was used to cover overdrafts and accounts for the company.