FARGO — A Pelican Rapids, Minn., woman who embezzled roughly $1.3 million from a Fargo property management company where she worked will spend more than three years in prison, a sentence that was harsher than what prosecutors recommended.
Federal Judge Peter Welte ordered 53-year-old Mickey Haarstad be taken immediately into custody on Tuesday, Nov. 12, to serve 37 months in prison for mail fraud and money laundering, but not before calling her behavior "diabolical."
“You said stealing is wrong,” the judge told Haarstad. “This isn’t stealing money. This is breaking trust. This is hurting people.”
Haarstad pleaded guilty in April to the charges that said she defrauded Campbell Properties and its investors of about $1.3 million between 2014 and 2018.
Haarstad told the court Tuesday she falsified financial statements and stole the money to spend on vacations, gambling and carpeting.
- Inside Business: 330-unit WF apartment complex now under new ownership, management
“I know that I have hurt so many people,” she said as she cried. “The betrayal is beyond comprehension.”
Campbell Properties hired Haarstad in 2011 to manage finances. She was motivated to steal money by “a strong dislike for one of the owners,” the defense said in court documents. Defense attorney David Dusek argued for a suspended 12-month sentence, meaning Haarstad would not spend time behind bars.
“Due to her feelings, Ms. Haarstad wanted to cause harm to the company owner,” a court document said. “The only way Ms. Haarstad believed she could harm the owner was by taking money from the owner. She believed this action would reduce his power.”
However, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas Chase said a boss being a jerk doesn’t justify stealing from them.
Chase called Haarstad’s theft “pure greed” and “predatory action.” He cited reports of previous thefts she admitted to at other companies, noting her embezzlement at Campbell Properties was “continuous, repeated, shameless theft.”
“This is a lifestyle this defendant got used to and had to pay for it,” Chase said in recommending a 25-month sentence.
Welte’s sentence was harsher than the prosecutor’s recommendations, but it was less than the 240-month maximum. Along with prison time, Welte ordered Haarstad to pay back the $1.3 million she stole.
Haarstad said a simple apology isn’t enough and she must show the victims she's sorry. “I will prove that I am remorseful,” she said.
She waved goodbye to her family with two hands as she was taken into custody, but not before her emotional apology.
“A cynical person could say you are not sorry; you’re just sorry you got caught,” Welte said.