OLIVET, S.D. (KELO) — The parents of the former Tripp city finance officer who admits to embezzling money took out a loan to pay more than $500,000 back to the town.
That revelation came out during testimony in the sentencing hearing for Jennifer Friederich on Monday.
Friederich will spend three years in prison after pleading guilty to embezzlement, forgery and destruction of public records. She could be released after serving just one year. She was not ordered to pay any fines as she is making restitution.
In 2018, state auditors discovered Friederich had given them fake bank statements and accounting records. Auditors found Friederich paid herself an extra $132,831 over the last six years. The Department of Legislative Audit’s review also found that Friederich racked up nearly $250,000 on the City’s credit cards and for cash advances. She also paid off her own credit cards with $18,814 of the city’s money and used city money to pay nearly $6,000 in personal cell phone bills.
KELOLAND Investigates learned that while Friederich worked for the city for more than 15 years, auditors couldn’t look back any further than 2012 because no city accounting records exist prior to that date.
KELOLAND’s Angela Kennecke was in the courtroom along with about 40 other people for the sentencing on Monday.
For her part, Friederich testified she doesn’t know why she started or continued stealing money from Tripp.
“I don’t know why I did it. I didn’t know how to stop and one cover up led to another. I just blocked it all out,” Friederich said in court Monday.
While no one from the Tripp City Council testified, Friederich’s sister did take the stand.
Jessica Kuhlman testified about how good of a person Friederich is, saying she’s needed to care for their mother who is on dialysis.
Defense attorney Mike Butler says Friederich has paid all the money back, including the cost of the audit, thanks to the loan taken out by her father. Kuhlman’s name is also on the loan.
Butler asked for house arrest or electronic monitoring so that Friederich can care for her elderly parents and two sons.
State’s attorney Glen Roth requested a “substantial number of years in prison.” Roth says Friederich’s actions hurt the infrastructure and quality of life for others in Tripp.
Friederich must report to prison on Friday.
Look for a full report from the sentencing later on KELOLAND News.