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Forum staff reports, Published July 08 2013

Former ELCA bookkeper appears in Clay court on theft, check-forging charges

MOORHEAD – Prosecutors asked a Clay County judge on Monday to give a more severe, or aggravated, sentence, to a former Lutheran synod bookkeeper charged with embezzling about $600,000 from the church, saying he abused a position of trust to facilitate the crime.

Robert Duane Larson, 61, of Wolverton, appeared in Clay County District Court Monday to ask for a continuance in the theft and check-forging case against him.

Prosecutors filed one count of felony theft and four counts of check for-gery against Larson in March, alleging he forged checks from northwestern Minnesota’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in America synod to Rural Life Outreach, a nonprofit for needy farmers and other rural people. Court docu-ments state Larson would then write checks from the charity to him and his wife, in part to pay for remodeling his home.

Larson’s attorney asked Monday that a judge reset a hearing in the case for September, saying he needed the extra time to review the forensic audit of finances in the case, which stretch back seven years.

Defense attorney Chris Karpan told Judge Steven Cahill he thought the court would find there was probable cause for a jury to consider the aggravated sentence requested by Clay County prosecutors if Larson is convicted.

Cahill set the next hearing in the case for Sept. 9.