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Former WCI accounting director gets probation in theft case

Steven Byers

WILLMAR -- Steven Douglas Byers, 55, of Kerkhoven, was sentenced Wednesday to 30 days in jail, a $1,000 fine and 10 years of probation for stealing more than $17,000 from West Central Industries.

Byers was ordered to pay $21,030.96 in restitution, which includes $17,676.96 stolen from WCI, plus additional costs for fin-ancial re-cords audits and attorney fees.

Under a plea agreement reach-ed in Kandiyohi County District Court, nine additional felony charges of financial transaction card fraud and theft against Byers were dismissed. He received a stay of imposition on his sentence, meaning that the felony conviction would be reduced to a misdemeanor if he complies with the conditions of sentence.

Byers was also ordered to get a job, continue to attend Gamblers' Anonymous, to not go into a casino for any reason, write an apology letter, participate in victim-offender mediation and attend a property crime impact panel. During the plea hearing on March 29, Byers admitted to charging his personal expenses, like phone and grocery bills, on the credit card and then routing the bill to be paid with WCI funds.

"I was short of money," he said. "I was always going to pay it back."

He was the accounting director for West Central Industries at the time and admitted he told executive director Charlie Oakes about the theft when he couldn't live with the deception anymore.

Byers was terminated from his employment in August, around the same time that Oakes contacted Willmar police and reported that Byers had opened a credit card account through WCI without the knowledge of officials there.

Byers had made numerous personal purchases on the card and West Central Industries had been paying the bill.

An audit revealed that Byers had used the card to charge $17,676.96 in personal charges between March 2007 and August 2009.