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Forum News Service, Published April 02 2013

Plea deal reached in fraud case against Willmar jeweler

WILLMAR, Minn. - A plea agreement was reached Tuesday in an insurance fraud case against a Willmar jeweler, clearing the way for future dismissal of the charge.

Todd Paffrath, 60, still must serve up to three years on probation and pay a $1,000 fine. But he will not serve any jail time, and the felony insurance fraud charge against him will be formally dismissed at the end of three years and erased from his record, as long as he complies with the terms of the sentence and does not commit any new offenses.

Under the agreement, Paffrath entered an Alford plea, meaning he did not admit to a crime but acknowledged there was enough evidence that could lead a jury to find him guilty.

Paffrath, the third-generation owner of Paffrath and Son Jewelers, filed a $15,528.10 insurance claim in 2011 for a diamond ring stolen from his store. The ring was later recovered in a pawn shop in Fridley. Thomas Scott Wright, 54, of Atwater, pleaded guilty last month in connection with the theft.

According to the criminal complaint filed against Paffrath, an appraisal subsequently determined the ring was worth about $10,000 less than the insurance claim. Had he been convicted, Paffrath could have faced a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, a $25,000 fine or both.