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A judge has sentenced a Dakota County town clerk to more than two years in prison for stealing more than $650,000 from Vermillion Township to feed her gambling habit.

Maryann H. Stoffel, 71, of Hastings, was sentenced Tuesday in federal court in Minneapolis to 2¼ years and ordered to pay back the $652,674.66 that she misappropriated from December 2012 through October 2020.

Stoffel pleaded guilty in March to one count of wire fraud.

"This was not a one-time mistake," the prosecution wrote in asking for Stoffel to receive a three-year sentence. "Stoffel made the decision on many different days over the course of eight years to steal money from the Township and to lie to her fellow Township officials. … Stoffel did not use the money to buy things that she needed, but rather to fund her yearslong gambling habit."

Defense attorney Catherine Turner countered in a filing before sentencing that Stoffel should be shown mercy by Judge Patrick Schiltz and spared prison for various reasons, including that her marriage is over, her house is being sold to make up in part for what she stole, and "the musk of shame and humiliation surrounds her like an aura."

"Almost everyone she considered a friend or colleague has turned away from her," Turner wrote.

Turner noted that her client did a lot of good for Vermillion Township despite the years of stealing money that she gambled away at the casino.

"She took the hamlet into the 21st century, helping train officials on state statutes and city ordinances," she wrote, adding that Stoffel also "faithfully served" the city of Rosemount for 27 years in its building permit department.

"She was dedicated to improving Vermillion Township and the efficacy of its small government," Turner wrote. "She knows that she ultimately betrayed the town's trust and confidence … but it is worth noting [there] were good things that she did for the township under her stewardship that will continue to benefit the residents long after the cloud of her theft has dissipated."

According to the criminal complaint and other federal court records:

Stoffel had signature authority over the township's bank account, which required the signatures of two people before payment would be issued.

Starting in December 2012, the year that Stoffel and her husband filed for personal bankruptcy protection, she sometimes forged the signatures of the township's treasurer and the board chair. At other times, she would collect the treasurer's and chair's signatures on blank checks under the guise that she would submit them to pay township bills.

Stoffel then put the funds in her personal bank account and left off the payments to herself from the township's annual report.

The U.S. Attorney's Office has not said how the thefts were detected.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482