Two men plead guilty in Hamel Little League swindle

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Two men pleaded guilty to swindling more than $50,000 from the Hamel Athletic Club, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Tuesday.

Edward Roy Leuthner, 50, of Corcoran pleaded guilty to one count of theft by swindle and paid $45,000 in restitution. On Monday, he was sentenced to three years of probation and will also serve 67 days in the work house and on electronic home monitoring.

Eric Benjamin Vargas, 49, of Andover, pleaded guilty Monday, as his trial was to begin, to theft by swindle over $1,000 and less than $5,000. His sentencing was set for Oct. 18 and he is expected to receive probation for three years and serve a total of 30 days in the workhouse and on electronic home monitoring. Hennepin County District Court Judge Lisa Janzen is also expected to order him to pay restitution in the amount of $5,000.

If both defendants follow all the terms of their probation, the felony charges on their records will be reduced to misdemeanors.

According to the criminal complaints, Leuthner was the president of the Hamel Athletic Club, which supports the little league baseball program. The swindle began almost immediately after Leuthner was added to the athletic club’s banking accounts in February 2016. Leuthner approached Vargas, who runs a sports apparel company, and convinced him to send inflated invoices to the athletic club when they purchased jerseys and hats and then refund the difference in cash to Leuthner. Over time, Vargas also sent invoices for items the shop did not even sell, such as baseballs.

The scheme was uncovered by the treasurer of the Hamel Athletic Club in July of last year. Leuthner intimidated her and she resigned.

Mike Mohs, the current president of the Hamel Athletic Club, had his impact statement read for him in court on Monday. He said that as a result of Mr. Leuthner’s theft, families have had to pay increased fees. Field maintenance and improvements have had to be put off. The reputation of the club is tarnished and it will take years to rebuild community trust.