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Forum News Service, Published September 24 2013

Man must serve jail time, pay $61,000 for stealing from rural church

WILLMAR, Minn. - A Willmar man convicted of stealing from the rural church that employed him will serve 90 days in jail immediately and has been ordered to pay back more than $61,000.

Paul Alton Hanson, 51, was sentenced Tuesday to 180 days in jail, a $300 fine and 10 years of probation on three felony charges of theft by swindle for stealing more than $60,000 from Tripolis Lutheran Church of rural Kandiyohi while he served as church treasurer.

As part of the sentence handed down by District Judge Paul A. Nelson in Kandiyohi County District Court, Hanson was also ordered to pay $51,623.83 to the church and $10,000 to the church’s insurance company as restitution.

Hanson was ordered to serve 90 days in jail immediately. The remaining 90 days will be staggered over the next two years and can be deferred if he complies with conditions of probation, including paying the restitution and fines, being evaluated for the cognitive skills program and participating in victim-offender dialogue.

Hanson pleaded guilty in August. The charges were filed in May after an investigation into Hanson writing more than 120 checks to himself while disguising his actions by writing apparently legitimate church expenses in the church’s financial ledgers.