Former Apple Valley Sons of American Legion commander pleads guilty

by Jessica Harper
Thisweek Newspapers

A former Apple Valley Sons of the American Legion commander has pleaded guilty to stealing $26,558 from the organization.

James Edmund Jensen, 55, pleaded guilty to one count of theft by
swindle, a felony, and paid $25,838 in restitution on Nov. 30 in Dakota
County District Court.

“It’s unusual — not too many people make a full (restitution) payment at the time of sentencing,” Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said. “I’m pleased he pleaded guilty and paid the restitution for this serious crime that impacted a worthwhile organization.”

Jensen also received a stayed prison sentence, three years of probation, 100 hours of community service and a $500 fine.

Jensen will also undergo an assessment for gambling addiction.

If Jensen complies with the order and completes probation, the conviction will be reduced to a misdemeanor, Backstrom said.

Jensen, a former Apple Valley resident, served off and on as the Sons of the American Legion commander for about eight years.

For the last three of those years, he wrote numerous checks worth thousands of dollars from the organization’s account.

Other Sons of the American Legion members became suspicious when they noticed that money collected from fundraisers was not spent on projects, according to the criminal complaint.

Jensen refused to return checkbooks and financial records when another commander was appointed.

Upon being confronted, Jensen admitted to taking about $10,000 from the account and offered to repay it.

Legion members reported the theft to Apple Valley Police on Dec. 16, 2008.

An investigation revealed that Jensen wrote a series of checks to himself totaling $26,558.

When interviewed by police, Jensen admitted to writing the checks to himself and said he “ran into some financial problems, including a DUI offense,” according to the criminal complaint.

During an interview with police, one Sons of the American Legion member said that Jensen had asked him to use a portion of the organization’s funds to pay a lawyer to defend Jensen in a DUI case.

The member said the organization had loaned money to members before, but that they need to sign a contract first, which he said Jensen never did.

E-mail Jessica Harper at:
jessica.harper@ecm-inc.com

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