Lake Park mayor gets 30 days in jail for stealing from sister with Down syndrome
DETROIT LAKES, Minn. – Lake Park’s mayor is expected to report to jail here by May 7 to serve a 30-day sentence for stealing more than $5,000 from his sister, a Down syndrome patient in an assisted-living facility.
Aaron Wittnebel was sentenced Wednesday in Becker County District Court to 30 days in jail, plus five years of supervised probation.
Wittnebel entered an Alford plea in March to one count of felony financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult. An Alford plea means he doesn’t feel he is guilty but concedes there is enough evidence to convict him.
Court documents say Wittnebel was his sister’s guardian and was in charge of her finances.
Workers at Divine House in Detroit Lakes notified county human services employees that Wittnebel was more than $6,000 behind in payments for his sister’s care.
A Becker County judge ruled a stay of adjudication on Wittnebel’s case. That means if he successfully completes the terms of his sentence, there will be no finding of guilty on his record.
The judge also allowed Wittnebel to serve his jail sentence on work release.
“He is still on felony probation,” said Becker County prosecutor Kevin Miller. “We’re good with the resolution.”
Miller said Wittnebel had paid back about $5,400 in restitution.
Lake Park City Attorney Charles Ramstad said that because only a felony conviction would disqualify Wittnebel as mayor, the sentencing does not affect the remainder of his term.
“Now it’s just time for Mr. Wittnebel to put things back together and move forward,” said Wittnebel’s attorney, Joe Irby.
Irby said Wittnebel had no plans to resign as mayor.