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Forum Communications, Published October 31 2012

Judge: Maddock businessman must repay $237,000 to farmers

GRAND FORKS - A Maddock businessman has until March 6 to repay more than $237,000 to farmers for undelivered products or face up to three years in prison.

Northeast Central District Judge Lee Christofferson on Tuesday sentenced Michael Jelle, whose business was “The Dryer Guy,” to a year in prison for each of the six misdemeanor thefts he was convicted of. However, the judge stayed the sentence on three charges and suspended the three others.

Jelle, who sold and grain dryers and related equipment, initially was charged in September 2011 with five felony thefts of property after he allegedly collected more than $200,000 from clients without delivering the goods. A sixth count, totaling $25,000, was added later.

In November 2011, North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem issued a cease and desist order, prohibiting Jelle or the business from doing business in the state.

Jelle pleaded guilty in September to reduced charges of misdemeanor theft.

Christofferson told Jelle he must repay the victims by the March 6 deadline to avoid jail. The judge also said the restitution will not be eliminated by any potential bankruptcy filing.