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Forum News Service, Published April 09 2013

Former Dickinson insurance agent found guilty on 5 counts of theft of property

DICKINSON, N.D. - A jury of 11 women and one man convicted former Dickinson insurance agent Scott Biggs of five counts of theft of property after a more than one hour of deliberation Monday in Southwest District Court in Dickinson.

Biggs was taken into the custody by the Stark County Sheriff’s Office immediately following the verdict and will remain in custody until he posts a $10,000 cash bond or surety.

Because Biggs’ lawyer, Irvin Nodland, requested a pre-sentencing investigation, Biggs’ sentencing and a restitution hearing will be scheduled at a later date.

Biggs faces up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine for each of the four Class B felony charges and up to five years imprisonment and a $5,000 fine for the Class C felony charge.

Along with a no-contact order with the victims, John and Jennifer Dufner, Assistant Attorney General Jon Byers had requested a $25,000 cash bond or surety and said the state plans to request around $46,000 in restitution.

“It’s a game change once you have a conviction and request restitution,” Byers said about why he asked for the $25,000 bond. “There’s a lot more to lose. The chance for flight is higher and this is an incentive to remain in the area until sentencing.”

But Judge Zane Anderson ordered bond set at $10,000 after Nodland explained that $25,000 may be impossible for Biggs to post.

“There is nothing in this man’s 56-year history to indicate flight,” Nodland said of Biggs. “He has no prior criminal record. He has family in the area. (A $25,000 bond) makes no sense. He’s not going to flee.”

Biggs was accused of placing the assets of his client, John Dufner, into various trust accounts and, without John Dufner’s knowledge, withdrawing $30,000 from one of the accounts on Sept. 11, 2009, according to a cease-and-desist order signed by State Insurance Commissioner Adam Hamm on June 27.

When John Dufner attempted to withdraw money from an account, Biggs was accused of advising him that the IRS had frozen the accounts. When John Dufner requested proof, Biggs reportedly refused to provide any documentation.

Biggs also was accused of issuing two cashier’s checks from a savings account that had been set up for John Dufner. The first check in the amount of $23,552 was paid to a Chase credit card in Biggs’ name, which Biggs testified was to reimburse him for expenses he accrued working for the Dufner’s Melaleuca business between 2003 and 2007.

Biggs was also accused of using a second check written for $5,805 to purchase three gold coins.

Nodland argued in closing statements Monday that John Dufner voluntarily signed over the money in two trusts.

“John Dufner did not setup the trusts. He was not the trustee, trustor or the beneficiary,” Noland said. “Was that smart? Maybe not. But a number of years later, he came back and said he would like the money he signed off on. Apparently, Mr. Dufner never read the trust documents. After 10 years, that money was supposed to go to charitable organizations. The state says it was a mistake and that Mr. Dufner was naïve, but he is a highly successful business person.”

Regardless of John Dufner’s wealth, Byers said taking someone else’s money is wrong.

“Whether you have $10 or $1 million, if you take it from someone, it is still a crime,” Byers said.