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Judge admonishes, sentences Villellas for bilking father

Fargo homebuilder Larry Villella and his wife, Catherine Sadler-Villella, leave the Cass County Courthouse in this 2008 screen image from WDAY.

FARGO - A judge on Tuesday sentenced Fargo homebuilder Larry Villella and his wife to jail after admonishing them for taking advantage of her vulnerable, 75-year-old father.

"At a very vulnerable point in his life, you did take advantage and did help your husband take advantage of your very own father," Judge Wickham Corwin told Catherine Sadler-Villella before sentencing her to 60 days, with all but 50 spent on electric home monitoring.

Corwin told Sadler-Villella and Villella that her decision to plead guilty to misdemeanor charges of forgery and misapplication of entrusted property may have saved the state a lengthy trial.

Two months after her March change of plea, Villella pleaded guilty to a felony charge of conspiracy to commit misapplication of entrusted property.

Both had originally faced felony charges of forgery, exploitation of a vulnerable adult and misapplication of entrusted property amid accusations they exploited her father out of more than $100,000 and forged his signature on a guaranty to back more than $1 million in loans to finance Villella's business.

Villella's attorney, Mark Beauchene, argued for a deferred sentence or a suspended sentence for his client, saying Villella should receive a punishment similar to his wife's.

Beauchene showed Corwin photos of Sadler-Villella's father, saying he was happy when he was living with the family.

Sadler-Villella's sister, Therese Isom, addressed Corwin before the sentencing, saying she is heartbroken over the lies and deceit. She said the Villellas have shown no remorse, only anger for being caught.

Both Villella and Sadler-Villella gave emotional apologies before being sentenced, saying they regretted the pain and suffering their actions have caused.

"I wish it had never happened," Villlella said, his voice breaking as he spoke.

Corwin told Villella he too wished the incident hadn't happened.

"In short, sir, your father-in-law placed his trust in you and you took advantage of that," Corwin said before sentencing him to one year, with all but 120 days suspended for a period of five years of supervised probation.

Corwin ordered Villella to spend 60 of the 120 days in jail, giving him credit for 50 days previously spent on electronic home monitoring. Villella has 70 days remaining to serve and must report to jail no later than Aug. 17.

Villella's share of restitution will remain open. Sadler-Villella has agreed to waive her expected inheritance.