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$2.4 million awarded in church embezzlement case

Judge orders Matheason to pay restitution, punitive damages in civil judgment for money taken from Bethel Lutheran

February 12, 2018
Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer ( , Estherville News

Former water conditioner salesman Andrew Matheason has been ordered to pay $2.5 million to Bethel Lutheran Church in Graettinger after he took over $400,000 from the church over 14 years.

It was back in July, 2017, when an employee of Bank Plus alerted church authorities to irregularities in their account.

The paper trail led to long time church treasurer Andrew Matheason, 65. Matheason has not yet been charged with any crime, but on Oct. 19, the church filed a petition for a monetary judgment and demand for jury trial.

Statements, checks and deposit slips from Bank Plus, Northwest Bank, and Citizens Community Credit Union dating back as far as 2007 were entered into evidence as the tally reached $471,000.

Handwritten checks from Bethel Lutheran's account were written by Matheason to himself and to DAC Enterprises, a company he controlled.

The funds paid for purchases at Wal-Mart and Amazon, and in 2013, after Matheason withdrew thousands of dollars from the congregations donations, he took a trip to Jamaica with his wife.

According to court records, Matheason first denied any wrongdoing, However, church council president Mike Springer, in a court affidavit, testified that Matheason confessed to stealing "thousands" of dollars.

Matheason filed no responses to the church's lawsuit, and on Jan. 30, Judge Nancy Whittenburg awarded Bethel Lutheran Church $481,029 in actual damages.

Whittenburg added $1,924,117 in punitive damages for a total judgment of $2,405,146.

In her ruling, Judge Whittenburg ruled, "the theft was particularly egregious given the extreme length of time over which [he] stole money from the church." Whittenburg noted Matheason's disregard for the fact that the funds "came from the donations of its parishioners."

Matheason appears to have covered his actions by providing inaccurate and incomplete information to the church council.

Notice of the judgment was sent from the court to Matheason Jan. 31.



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