Former Sanford Center director sentenced to 21 days for theft by swindle
BEMIDJI -- Curtis Webb, the former executive director of the Sanford Center, was sentenced Thursday, Feb. 20, to jail time for theft by swindle.
Webb was sentenced to serve 21 days in the Beltrami County Jail, but with good behavior would sit for 14 days, after he pleaded guilty on Friday, Jan. 24, to one count of theft by swindle in relation to his former job as head of the Bemidji events center.
As part of a plea agreement between the prosecution and Webb's attorney, Thomas Kuesel, the sentence includes a stay of imposition, three years of unsupervised probation, a $1,000 fine, restitution of roughly $37,200 and that he have no contact with VenuWorks, the Iowa-based company the city of Bemidji contracts with to manage the Sanford Center. Webb must also send apology letters to VenuWorks and the city of Bemidji.
At the sentencing on Thursday, Kuesel said that Webb’s fine and restitution were already paid. Webb was taken into custody to start his sentence after the hearing.
Beltrami County Attorney David Hanson argued for a 45-day jail sentence Thursday, saying that Kuesel’s reasons for a lighter jail sentence weren’t valid.
“This is behavior that warrants jail time,” Hanson said.
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 in a January 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.
Kuesel said in court on Thursday that Webb was having a hard time when he was in Bemidji because his daughter was living in Ohio. He also said that Webb went from making $120,000 a year to $14 an hour.
“He went from the executive floor down to the basement,” Kuesel said.
Webb also spoke during Thursday's sentencing, saying he wanted to publicly apologize to VenuWorks and the city of Bemidji.
“I wish I could take it all back,” said Webb, who now makes his home in California.
In November, Webb was also 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.