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Former Cass Lake school district employee facing theft charges

CASS LAKE, Minn. — A former Cass Lake-Bena School District employee and school board member is accused of embezzlement and facing six counts of felony theft.

Terri Vail, 52, of Cass Lake, appeared Monday in Cass County District Court. The Cass County attorney’s office reported that Vail appeared pursuant to a summons and has been released on her own recognizance.

Rick Haaland, Cass Lake-Bena School Board chairperson, said Vail is taking a leave from the board as of last week. A representative of the Walker-Hackensack-Akeley School confirmed that she is employed with District 113.

Vail is accused of misrepresenting her marital status on insurance enrollment forms, resulting in a financial benefit. Vail worked for the school district between 2002 and 2012. In 2005, Vail began working as the district’s payroll specialist, a position in which she was given access to prepare insurance reports, issue checks and update employee records, according to a criminal complaint.

Vail was claiming a married status in 2008, 2009 and 2010 although she had been divorced from Michael Vail since 1999, and she listed him as her spouse on insurance documents, the complaint says.

According to the complaint, “Married couples who are both employed by the District and eligible for insurance may pool their insurance premium allowance to purchase one family plan versus two individual plans.”

Michael Vail had worked as a paraprofessional with the district between 2007 and 2010.

Between 2008 and 2010, $9,968.80 was paid into Terri Vail’s health savings account and $13,849 in premiums was not withheld from her payroll. Because Terri Vail did not withhold from Michael Vail’s plan as a single person, Health Partners/Blue Cross Blue Shield was not paid $10,088.38, according to court documents.

If convicted on all counts, Terri Vail could face up to 45 years in prison and nearly $100,000 in fines. Her next court appearance is scheduled for Nov. 12.

Crystal Dey
Crystal Dey covers crime, courts, tribal relations and social issues for The Bemidji Pioneer in Bemidji, Minnesota. Originally from Minnesota’s Iron Range, Dey has worked for the Echo Press in Alexandria, Minnesota, The Forum in Fargo, North Dakota, The Tampa Tribune in Tampa, Florida, the Hartford Courant in Hartford and West Hartford News in West Hartford, Connecticut. Dey studied Mass Communications at Minnesota State University Moorhead with an emphasis in Online Journalism. Follow Crystal Dey on Twitter @Crystal_Dey.
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