Fraud by estate sales businesswoman results in workhouse time, probation


Mary Jane Thompson, who defrauded 16 victims of nearly $148,000, was sentenced to 10 years on probation, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Friday.
Thompson, 72, has a two-year prison sentence hanging over her if she violates the terms of her probation.  In addition, Hennepin County District Judge Gina Brandt sentenced Thompson to 270 days in the Hennepin County workhouse during the Thursday hearing.

According to the criminal complaint, 16 people told police that Thompson, who operated a business which conducted moving and estate sales, had failed to pay them funds she owed them for sales held from July 2013 through December 2014.

Before she sentenced Thompson, Judge Brandt heard two victim impact statements. In one of them, Gary Smidt said that Thompson provided only “frequent and almost innumerable excuses,” and the constant stress of trying to get their money from Thompson worsened his wife’s multiple sclerosis.

Another victim, Barbara Halbakken, told the judge how she oversaw the estate of Janice Curtis after her death.

“Not only was Mary Jane Thompson heartless for her prey on society, she also took intentional advantage of the death of Janice Curtis and the beneficiaries of her estate at a time of bereavement.”  

Assistant Hennepin County Attorney John Halla noted that the sentence she would serve, if she violates probation, is double what she would normally have received.

“Each of the victims in this case trusted Mary Jane Thompson and had their trust violated by her,” Halla said. “They felt violated, felt helpless and were put through great stress and great strain.”

Thompson, in her statement, told the judge “the only way to make restitution is to let me work.”  Judge Brandt replied that she hoped the defendant “would back [her words] up with actions.”

However, Brandt was not taking her word alone. Two of the conditions of her probation are that she not hold any job with a fiduciary capacity and that she consistently make restitution payments. Brandt ordered that Thompson appear before her every year of her probation to review her finances to make sure she is not keeping money that should go to her victims.