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Danube police chief and wife face felony theft charges

Charges of felony theft have been filed against the chief of police in Danube and his wife.

Criminal complaints filed in district court in Renville County accuse Lester Leon Schneider Jr., 39, and Jammie Jean Schneider, 38, of taking $4,650 from the Danube Fire Department's smelt fry fund for their own use in 2006, and then apparently repaying the fund.

Les Schneider, who has served as police chief in the community since the early 1990s, is charged with one count of felony theft and two counts of felony theft - indifferent to owner. He is also charged with gross misdemeanor charges of theft - indifferent to owner right and misconduct of a public officer; and a misdemeanor charge of receiving unauthorized compensation as a public officer.

Jammie Schneider is charged with identical felony and gross misdemeanor charges of theft and theft - indifferent to owner.

Both are scheduled to make their first appearances in court on Aug. 27.

Schneider is currently on duty as chief of police in the small community of just over 560 people. The chief said he is unable to comment on the charges at this time.

The Danube City Council will meet Thursday evening in closed session to discuss the matter. City Attorney Aaron Walton said the council members have been informed about the allegations but have not yet had an opportunity to discuss them.

He acknowledged that the matter puts the council in a difficult position. Schneider is a Danube native and is active in community affairs, serving on the volunteer fire department and as director of the community's first responders. His father, Les Schneider Sr., is a current and long-term member of the City Council and has previously served as the community's mayor.

Current Mayor Gene Allex Sr. said he did not know if the council will take action on the matter at the conclusion of the closed meeting or at the council's next regularly scheduled meeting. The mayor said he and other city officials cannot comment on the matter until they have a chance to review the allegations and meet with the city attorney.

Les Schneider Jr. was serving as assistant fire chief in 2006 when the alleged incidents occurred, according to the complaint.

It alleges that Schneider had control of the smelt fry fund checking account and wrote three checks totaling $4,650 to his wife. They are dated July 18, Aug. 31, and Sept. 28. The complaint alleges that Jammie Schneider endorsed the checks and that they were placed in her and her husband's joint checking account at Minnesota Bank in Danube.

The complaint alleges that they admitted using the money for their own personal use, including paying a couple of mortgage payments.

On Oct. 31, 2006, a deposit of $5,045 was made into the Danube Fire Department's smelt fry account, which coincides with the time the alleged transactions were reported, the complaint states.

The charges follow an investigation conducted on March 26, 2009, by a Kandiyohi County sheriff's detective. It came in response to a report of a theft at the Danube Fire Department.

Renville County Attorney David Torgelson said he and his staff have a working relationship with the Danube police chief and turned over the detective's findings to the Meeker County attorney's office, which filed the complaint and charges and will handle the prosecution.