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August 24, 2009 05:56 PM

Insurance Agent Sentenced On Grand Theft


A former Sioux Falls insurance salesman won't go to prison, even though prosecutors call him a "con man."


Twenty-five-year-old Vitaliy Strizheus is originally from Ukraine.  A judge sentenced him to 90 days in jail for grand theft. Not only did he avoid prison time, he also won't be deported. 

Strizheus is a free man, sort of.

The judge says since Strizheus has a wife and three young children and needs to work to support them, he'll have to serve his 90 days on weekends.

Prosecutors had asked for prison time.

"The judge has various factors he considers when he sentences someone and he told us all about those factors and I'm not going to second guess him," prosecutor Don Srstka said.

Strizheus, who has no other criminal offenses, pleaded guilty to one count of grand theft. As an insurance man, he was getting paid advance commissions for any clients he signed up through Mutual of Omaha and Americo.

In 2007, Strizheus got caught filing life insurance applications for people who didn't exist, which netted him more than $30,000 in commissions he didn't earn.

Before he was sentenced, Strizheus told the court he was sorry and that he made a mistake, one that won't happen again.

The judge also placed Strizheus on five years supervised probation. He'll be randomly tested for drugs or alcohol, the court will monitor all of his financial activities and he can't leave the state of South Dakota.

Since his wife is a stay-at-home mom, the judge felt putting him in prison would have sentenced Strizheus' family "to a life of poverty."

But the prosecutor still maintains, he's a con man.

"That's what he is! He gets five years to walk the straight and narrow.  We'll see," Srstka said.

Strizheus was also ordered to pay back more than $24,000 he took in unearned commissions, which he did Monday.
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