WADENA, Minn. -  A former Merickel Lumber employee has been sentenced for stealing $80,000 from customers and the company she worked for.
In April 2019, Brenda Rae Bakken, 57, was charged with both felony theft and felony theft by swindle. She has now been sentenced with felony theft by swindle, while felony theft being dismissed. Bakken must pay back $79,036 - the amount she stole from customers and Merickel - in restitution. She must also serve 45 days in the county jail, pay a $1,000 fine, perform 40 hours of community service, and remain on supervised probation for 20 years.
We wrote about this case back in February, when Bakken entered a guilty plea to felony theft by swindle. Over two-and-a-half years, Bakken - as Merickel's accountant - admitted she skillfully manipulated customer charges.
"I moved money around in accounts, paid it back here and there, and it just -- it got out of hand, and I just lost control of it," she said at a January 22 hearing, reports the Pioneer Journal.
The company knew something was up, so it launched a full audit and investigation.
"She falsified customer statements that overstated the amount due – when they paid the over-stated amount, she stole that money to pay back other accounts," office manager Missy Seelhammer wrote in an email to the Journal. "She paid them back with someone else’s money, which is not her paying it back."
The Pioneer Joural reports that Merickel Lumber office manager Missy Seelhammer and company co-owner Jason Merickel gave victim impact statements to the court. Both believed 45 days in jail was not enough punishment.
Bakken reportedly expressed remorse before the court.
"It was never my intent to take money and not return it," Bakken said. "What I have done has ruined my life."

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