A former Yankton VFW Post 791 treasurer faces an upgraded charge for allegedly embezzling $100,000-500,000 from the post, which is marking its centennial this week and planning to stay in operation despite the alleged lost funds.
Colin Reisner, 37, has been charged with aggravated grand theft, a Class 3 felony. The charge carries with it a maximum punishment of 15 years imprisonment in the state penitentiary and a $30,000 fine.
Reisner was scheduled to make his first appearance Wednesday in magistrate court before Judge Kasey Sorensen. Prior to his court date, he waived his right to a preliminary hearing and wasn’t present at Wednesday’s court appearance. He was represented at the proceeding by court-appointed defense attorney Luci Youngberg.
His next court appearance is set for June 3 before Judge Cheryle Gering in First Circuit Court at Yankton. He remains free on an unsecured bond of $5,000.
Reisner previously faced one count of grand theft of $5,000-100,000, a Class 4 felony. The charge carried with it a maximum punishment of 10 years imprisonment in the state penitentiary and a $20,000 fine.
However, the Yankton County state’s attorney’s office amended its complaint, recharging him with the upgraded offense based on new information. Because of the amended complaint, Reisner didn’t enter a plea on the dismissed grand theft charge.
Court papers outline the events leading to his arrest and the grounds for upgrading the charge.
In his affidavit of probable cause for a warrantless arrest, Yankton Police Officer Brooke Jackson provided a report of the events leading to Reisner’s arrest.
On April 14, the Yankton police dispatch received a report of missing money from an account associated with VFW Post 791 in Yankton. Post Commander Bill Rueppel, the reporting party, advised that VFW leaders met with First National Bank and First Dakota National Bank officials. At that time, the two financial institutions informed VFW Post 791 that there was no money left in the post’s treasury.
In addition, First National Bank advised them of multiple loans pulled out for the VFW. Rueppel stated no one has access to do this because of the post by-laws. When asked what kind of loans they were, Rueppel indicated they were repair loans, mortgage loans and an additional loan of unknown nature.
Reisner had been the post’s quartermaster, or treasurer, for approximately five years and had been “bonded” by the VFW prior to taking on this duty and employment, Rueppel said. But for the past year, Reisner had been avoiding the post’s phone calls and meetings, deferring bills and not returning credit collectors’ inquiries about the VFW, the commander said.
In addition, Reisner had not been paying electrical bills to the point that the electricity was shut off this year, the court documents said.
Rueppel said he was unsure of the amounts from First Dakota National Bank, but the First National Bank total would be $80,000, according to court records.
At that point, Jackson said he would be making contact with Reisner concerning the funds. Rueppel informed the police officer that Reisner had not responded to anyone’s contact attempts and had been taken off all of the accounts.
Rueppel anticipated learning more from the banks and National VFW concerning the amount and the situation.
During the police visit, Reisner consented to answering questions and confirmed he had access to the VFW accounts. The police office then asked Reisner if anyone else had access to the VFW account.
“Colin began to fidget and would not make eye contact with me,” Jackson reported, adding Reisner said he thought the commander and former treasurer may still have access.
Jackson asked Reisner about the last checks he had issued and who would have taken out larger loans totaling around $80,000 for a building loan or mortgage.
At that point, Reisner admitted he stole the money and spent it on video lottery. In addition, he admitted he had made the books look like the accounts were good since 2016.
Reisner said he took all the action by himself, and his wife had no part in it or any knowledge of his actions.
At first, Reisner indicated he stole approximately $80,000 but later the said the amount was likely closer to $200,000 over the years.
During the police interview, Reisner said he falsified the meeting minutes and stated the VFW agreed to fix parts of its facility and other building loans. He said he only took the loans through First National Bank. Also, he said he would write checks, get the cash and use it for gambling at various locations.
“Colin stated, ‘I just kept losing more and taking more.’ Colin was very emotional and crying,” Jackson wrote in his affidavit.
At that point, Reisner was arrested for grand theft and escorted to the Yankton County Jail for booking on the charge.
Last week, a meeting was held at the VFW Post where Rueppel informed members of the situation and the post’s depleted treasury. He was joined in the presentation by new Quartermaster Dan Klimisch, South Dakota VFW Commander Cody Mangold and VFW Post 791 Auxiliary President Cheryl Van Dyke.
During the meeting, approximately two dozen members in attendance raised $8,000 in an impromptu collection among themselves. The amount covered the post’s insurance costs and allowed for the re-opening of the facility, which had been closed for more than a year because of the pandemic.
The post has since received other donations, including a $10,000 challenge from Elkhorn Valley Bank and Trust for other financial institutions in Yankton.
VFW Post 791 has set a “soft” re-opening date of May 14 (Friday) — the post’s 100th anniversary of its charter. The members sought to replenish the post’s beer and liquor inventory and to prepare the building for meetings, events and the general public.
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