BEMIDJI -- Curtis Webb, the former executive director of the Sanford Center, pleaded guilty on Friday, Jan. 24, to one count of theft by swindle in relation to his former job in Bemidji.
As part of the plea, Webb's attorney, Thomas Kuesel, said he came to a general agreement with the prosecution that the sentence include a stay of imposition, three years of probation, a 45-day cap on jail time, a $1,000 fine, restitution of roughly $37,200 and that he have no contact with the organization VenuWorks, which is the Iowa-based company the city of Bemidji contracts with to manage the Sanford Center.
A stay of imposition would mean Webb's felony would be downgraded to a misdemeanor if he successfully completed his probation.
Following the hearing, Beltrami County Attorney David Hanson clarified that just because the two parties agreed to those general terms, it doesn't necessarily mean the court will agree to them once it comes to sentencing. Webb also will have to have a pre-sentence investigation, which could impact the sentencing.
His sentencing is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 20.
The charge against Webb stems from the fact that he made fraudulent claims for reimbursements for expenses he never actually incurred during his time with the Sanford Center, according to court documents. The fraudulent reimbursement requests Webb submitted were made from 2015-16. According to the documents, the sum of the reimbursements would have come to $38,214, roughly $1,000 more than the proposed restitution amount mentioned during Friday's hearing.
Webb was the executive director of the Sanford Center from 2013-16. He later accepted a position at the then-U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington, Ill., in June 2016. He was fired from the position that October when officials learned of discrepancies with a debit card that was supposed to be used for expenses at the arena, which is now known as Grossinger Motors Arena.
The Minnesota State Auditor's Office began investigating Webb's tenure at the Sanford Center in Bemidji once the allegations were announced in the Illinois case. The Beltrami County Attorney's Office initially filed the charges against Webb in August, some three years after he left the position.
In November, Webb was sentenced in Illinois to 100 hours of community service and ordered to pay restitution of $1,149 as part of a 24-month conditional discharge, according to the Pantagraph newspaper in Bloomington.
During Friday's hearing in Bemidji, Webb answered various questions from both Hanson and Kuesel about what the charge included and his understanding of it. Although Webb only pleaded to one count of theft by swindle, that count encompassed 16 different instances where Webb collected funding from the company for charges he never actually incurred.
For example, Webb submitted reimbursement requests for costs such as hotels, airfare and event registration that he never actually incurred. Webb testified on Friday that all of the allegations brought against him were true, except for one case in which he paid back at least some of the reimbursement he had received.
In response to questions from his own attorney while Webb was testifying, the former arena executive confirmed he was experiencing "upheaval" in his personal life during the time outlined in the charge against him. He also said that he had significant expenses during that time, part of which was due to his child.
Also in response to questions from his attorney, Webb said that not all of the expenses he incurred during his time at the Sanford Center were illegitimate. Further, he said there were times he initially did plan to accrue the expenses for which he received reimbursement, even if he didn't follow through with those plans in the end. He clarified on the stand, however, that that doesn't excuse what he did.