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Charges: Woodbury man bilked out of $115,000 by former Minn. sheriff

Washington County prosecutors say a Woodbury man was among several victims of a former central Minnesota sheriff convicted in a swindling scheme.

Von Forest Thompson, 55, makes his first appearance Thursday in Washington County District Court on felony charges that he swindled a Woodbury businessman out of $115,000.

Thompson was the Kanabec County sheriff from 1983 to 1999. He was convicted in April 2010 of three felony theft charges stemming from a Kanabec County case, where he was accused of running a Ponzi scheme and tax evasion.

According to online Minnesota court records, a 42-month prison sentence was stayed in that case, provided Thompson abided the terms of a 20-year probationary sentence.

The Washington County charges were filed in July 2010.

According to a criminal complaint, Woodbury resident David Pietsch contacted Kanabec County authorities in November 2008 to report Thompson had swindled him out of the funds.

According to the complaint, Thompson approached Pietsch in June 2008 at his Woodbury office, where Thompson asked him to invest in an airplane he was planning to rebuild. Thompson told Pietsch he could expect a 15- to 20-percent investment return.

Pietsch wrote Thompson a check for $50,000. According to prosecutors, Thompson cashed the check and spread the money into his business' construction company account to pay another investor, converted some to cash and used a portion to pay personal bills.

Thompson allegedly approached Pietsch in 2008 on two other occasions, where he received checks for $35,000 and $30,000. Both checks were supposed to go toward motorcycle investments.

Shortly before Thompson was charged in Kanabec County, he approached Pietsch requesting a $150,000 loan, saying it "would help his situation," the complaint states. Pietsch declined the request.

The complaint states Thompson never repaid Pietsch's investment funds.

Thompson is charged in Washington County with theft by swindle and theft through false representation. Both charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.