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Former Humane Society director pleads guilty

A Red Wing woman pleaded guilty Friday to embezzling money from the Humane Society of Goodhue County while serving as its director.

Marilyn Szymanski will serve 240 hours of community service for stealing at least $2,500 from the non-profit that cares for lost and abandoned pets.

"You took the money that was supposed to go to the Humane Society for yourself?" Szymanski's attorney, Doug Boese, asked his client during the plea.

"Yes," an emotional Szymanski said.

Under the plea bargain, Szymanski admitted to diverting corporate property, a felony charge reduced to a gross misdemeanor, and in return the Rice County attorney's office dropped a second felony theft charge.

Because Goodhue County provides some public funding to the humane society, the Rice County Attorney's office handled the case to avoid a potential conflict of interest.

Szymanski also will be required to pay restitution to the Humane Society. There is, however, a disagreement over what the restitution should be and that matter will be handled in a separate hearing Feb. 5.

In September 2008 the humane society's board of directors was tipped off that something strange was happening and an outside accountant confirmed their suspicions - finding disparities between $34,000 and $70,000 in the agency's finances between March 2007 and September 2008.

Szymanski resigned as director on Sept. 11, 2008.

According to a criminal complaint, Szymanski stole cash, wrote humane society checks to herself -- falsifying the transactions in a ledger -- and transferred money from the agency's bank account to her personal account and to her personal credit cards.