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Twin Cities man gets jail time for stealing money from benefit for dying friend

Ryan Stark

WILLMAR -- A Twin Cities man was sentenced Thursday to 13 months of stayed prison time, five years of probation, 120 days in the county jail and a $200 fine on a theft charge for hosting a benefit for a dying friend and then keeping the cash for himself instead of giving the funds to her kids.

Ryan Albert Stark, 34, of Anoka, was also ordered to pay at least $200 per month in restitution and continuing paying until $5,382 is paid back, and to write an apology letter and attend victim-offender mediation.

As a condition of the stayed prison time, Stark must serve at least 30 days in the county jail. The remaining 90 days can be deferred if he is following all conditions of probation, according to the sentencing order by Judge Michael J. Thompson in Kandiyohi County District Court.

As part of a plea agreement, another felony theft charge was dismissed.

The charges were filed after the Kandiyohi County Sheriff's Office received a theft report last November. A woman reported that her daughter, Shelly J. Garberich, had died in 2006 and that the woman now had custody of Garberich's three children.

The children were supposed to receive the proceeds of a benefit organized by a group of people, including Stark, held in Willmar, also in 2006.

One of the children had attempted to contact Stark to get money from the benefit, which raised about $5,000, for a computer to use for college. The woman had communicated with Stark and learned that the account was worth only $3,000, but that he would send a $900 money order for the computer. The money order never arrived.

A detective researched the report and learned that Garberich was diagnosed with terminal cancer in March 2006 and that the benefit was in September. According to Tribune archives, she died on July 19, 2006.

Investigators executed a search warrant on Stark's accounts at an area bank and the information allegedly showed that $5,355 was deposited in an account that he controlled with Garberich's name on it. The account was closed, but not before $2,260 was moved to Stark's personal and business accounts and $3,000 was spent, via debit card, at various businesses.