Casper Woman Who Lied to Court and Bilked Siblings Must Repay $50,000
A Casper woman in charge of her late mother's inheritance stole scores of thousands of dollars from her siblings through the manipulation of money from the estate, and lied to Natrona County District Court, Assistant District Attorney Mike Schafer said at her sentencing hearing on Thursday.
However, Laura Lee Rasmussen, 48, did not have a criminal record and partly as a result of that received five years of supervised probation including the approximately nine-month felon rehabilitation program at the Casper Re-entry Center.
Judge Catherine Wilking handed down that sentence in lieu of a suspended four- to six-year prison term for theft and a four- to five-year prison term for perjury, which was part of the plea agreement reached by her attorney Don Fuller and Schafer.
Wilking also ordered Rasmussen to pay $825 a month towards $50,000 in restitution to the estate, be employed full time, and not have contact with family members.
The judge said Rasmussen, who blamed her siblings for the financial problems, has shown no remorse for the theft, nor for filing false documents (the perjury) with the court.
Fuller said the judge wasn't just sentencing a crime, but also a person. Rasmussen has had health issues, she has never been arrested, and the only person Rasmussen lied to was Wilking, Fuller said.
The judge responded that this was only the second instance of perjury she had ever encountered.
Perjury was not an offense to just her, but to the entire justice system including the judges, the attorneys, and the staff of the Clerk of District Court who processed documents, Wilking said. "If we can't trust people under oath, that's when the system breaks down."
In describing the case, Schafer said, "It was kind of an accounting nightmare to figure out the exact amount."
After the hearing, the siblings and their families who were the victims first left the courtroom. Rasmussen and her family left after the others had left the Townsend Justice Center.
The case started in 2015 after three siblings asked the court to have Rasmussen removed as the estate's personal representative, a position she held after their mother died in April 2013. "The court found there did appear to be irregularities in the administration of the Estate which require further investigation," according to a police affidavit.
A brother learned the funeral expenses had not been paid and he found numerous insurance claims made and paid, but not deposited in the estate's account.
For example, Rasmussen was supposed to maintain the house. She turned off the power one winter, leading to burst water lines and significant damage to the house that had been appraised at $140,000, according to a police affidavit. When she found the damage, she filed an insurance claim, received $40,000, but used that for herself instead of making the repairs.
She sold the unrepaired house sold for $90,000, and after paying off a lien, each of the other siblings received about $8,500, according to the affidavit.
In in her final accounting report to the court, Rasmussen did not list at least $49,431.29 worth of payments to the estate, according to the affidavit. She converted at least $81,522.67 worth of estate funds to her personal use.
The police investigator, who was requesting a search warrant, concluded with this statement: "Rasmussen intentionally and deliberately filed false documents under oath with Natrona County District Court. Further, Rasmussen knowing took and made unauthorized transfers of Estate property to herself with the intent to deprive the other beneficiaries of the Estate their rights to the property. Rasmussen was able to do this by using her authority as Executor of the Estate. A warrant is respectfully requested for Rasmussen for the charges of larceny (value $81,522.67) and perjury."