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December 4, 2002

Hoffman gets 30 months for embezzling

From: Monticello Times, MN - 04 Dec 2002

By Laurie Dennis

A former owner of the Monte Club was sentenced in federal court Wednesday, Nov. 27, to 30 months in prison for embezzling more than $1 million from the Plymouth-based Miracle-Ear, Inc.

William Walter Hoffman, 34, Monticello, pleaded guilty in May to one count of mail fraud and one count of forging a check.

Chief Judge James Rosenbaum also ordered Hoffman to pay $664,000 in restitution to Miracle-Ear and serve a three-year term of supervised release after finishing his prison sentence.

Hoffman is to report to jail no later than Jan. 3. Rosenbaum recommended that Hoffman be sent to the Duluth prison camp, a low- to medium-security facility, but the federal Bureau of Prisons will make the ultimate decision on where he will serve.

"This is a case toward the upper end, in terms of embezzlement," said Assistant United States Attorney Mark Larsen, the prosecutor for the case. "We think the result has been a just one."

Hoffman and his wife, Natalie, bought the Monte Club in 1996 from the Lindenfelser and Gagnelius families in Monticello. The couple sold the business four years later and Hoffman then went to work for Miracle-Ear, becoming a senior staff accountant for the hearing aid company.

According to the criminal charges, in January 2001 Hoffman created a fictitious Plymouth-based firm, Right Choice Options, with a name similar to that of an actual Miracle-Ear vendor. Hoffman incorporated Right Choice and obtained an Employer Identification Number through the mail, which involved federal authorities in the investigation.

Over a nine-month period ending in November 2001, the criminal charges say he "caused 28 Miracle-Ear checks to be issued in the sum total of $1,090,289.84, all payable to 'Right Choice.'" The checks were deposited in a Marquette Bank branch account Hoffman controlled.

Larsen said the embezzlement came to light when Hoffman tried to withdraw $400,000.

Prior to the guilty plea, Hoffman forfeited his Monticello home at 9081 Country Avenue in the Klein Farms development, along with a collector's car, a speed boat and cash. According to Larsen, the forfeited items were all either purchased or paid off with stolen money.

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