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Felony charges for commissioner candidate dismissed

By Staff | Oct 17, 2014

TOWNER – A candidate for McHenry County commissioner had a Class C felony charge of theft of property dismissed in Northeast District Court on Wednesday.

Vern Kongslie, 62, of Towner, is a former McHenry County commissioner. He appeared at the preliminary hearing with attorney Paul Probst.

State’s Attorney Cassey Ann Breyer brought the charge, saying Kongslie took fuel from Farmers Union Oil Company by deception with intention to deprive the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) of its funds. The charge alleged the theft of oil equal to $1,023. Theft over $1,000 is considered a felony.

The McHenry County Sheriff’s Office and Bureau of Criminal Investigation investigated the case.

Former tenants of a Kongslie rental property in Towner told a McHenry County Sheriff’s deputy that Kongslie ordered fuel to the property under a tenant’s name to use their LIHEAP credit. The tenants, Rodney and Nina Berger, qualified for LIHEAP, a government program that pays 90 percent of a low-income household’s heating fuel bill.

A Feb. 5, 2014, invoice showed the purchase of 300 gallons of heating oil under Rodney Berger’s name. Nina Berger testified that the couple gave Kongslie notice on Feb. 2 that they planned to move. Berger said around Thanksgiving 2013 her husband witnessed Kongslie taking oil from an outside tank, which was not hooked to the downstairs furnace at any point since the couple had moved there in April 2013. Berger said her husband ordered oil once in May 2013 and again in January to the basement tank. The latter purchase was for 200 gallons, according to statements given to Deputy Calise Lindstrom, who also testified.

Berger said employees at Envision in Towner told the couple Kongslie made the purchase detailed on the Feb. 5 invoice.

An Envision employee told law enforcement he put 150 gallons in each tank following Kongslie’s order.

Probst argued that a simple mistake was made and Kongslie had paid the bill in full on Feb. 24, once notified by his brother Justin Kongslie, who works at the Envision station.

Probst also argued that the 150 gallons put in the outdoor tank would amount to half the theft total listed in the charge. A felony charge wouldn’t apply then.

Judge John C. McClintock Jr., said that because Kongslie paid the amount of oil delivered, no one appeared to be deprived of an item or victim of theft. McClintock said the innuendo presented did not amount to probable cause.

Other cases

Donald J. Magnuson, 62, of Rugby, had a bond hearing Monday on a Class A felony charge of possession of pills with intent to deliver. The hearing was held in Northeast District Court in Rugby.

Magnuson is charged with a Class A misdemeanor of providing false information to law enforcement. Bond was set at $10,000.

On Tuesday, Cody Roy Canfield, 20, of Grand Forks, made an initial appearance on a Class C felony charge of issuing checks on a closed account. Bond was set at $1,000. Canfield also faces four misdemeanor charges of the same activity. Any false check issued of more than $1,000 is a felony. A criminal hearing is scheduled for Oct. 28.

Leon James Schultz, 42, of Towner, pleaded guilty to a Class C felony charge of reckless endangerment. A Class B misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct was dismissed. Schultz also pleaded guilty to a Class A misdemeanor charge of ingesting a controlled substance. He was sentenced to two years with one suspended at the North Dakota Department of Corrections. Schultz was also ordered to complete a chemical dependency evaluation and receive treatment. He was ordered to have no contact with victims or their families and will serve three years supervised probation following incarceration.

James Counts, 38, of Dunseith, pleaded guilty to a Class C felony charge of possession of a controlled substance (pill). Counts also pleaded guilty to a Class A misdemeanor of providing false information to law enforcement.

He was sentenced to 60 days in jail, all suspended, with one year probation. The felony will be dropped to a misdemeanor if Counts completes probation, chemical dependency evaluation and treatment.

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