HJ/EDJuly 24, 2006

Two former Cokato bankers charged

By Lynda Jensen

Two former executives of a Cokato bank were charged in federal court Wednesday in connection with loan fraud in separate incidences.

A court hearing is expected to be set for Bob Aanenson, 52, of Dassel, and Don Peroutka, 63, of Cokato, who both worked for the State Bank of Cokato, said Karen Bailey of the US Attorney’s Office.

Aanenson was formerly president and director of the bank, and Peroutka was executive vice president.

Peroutka’s attorney, Jon Hopeman, indicated that his client plans to make a plea agreement that would involve $50,000 restitution to the bank, and a request for probation, he said.

“He feels just terrible about it,” Hopeman said of Peroutka.

The charge against Peroutka involves a small business loan for a Cokato business, in which the down payment for the loan was improperly granted by the bank to secure SBA funds.

“He basically made the loan to (the business) so it could be capitalized and go forward,” Hopeman said. Otherwise, Peroutka was concerned that the small business – the only non-chain business of its kind in town – would not remain in the community.

“He is cooperating with the FBI and government,” Hopeman said of Peroutka.

Peroutka’s court date is set for Thursday, Aug. 10.

The information filed against Peroutka alleges that he lied to an FBI agent about a different loan fraud in which he allegedly participated in during the summer of 2003.

According to the US Attorney’s Office, Peroutka authorized a guaranteed Small Business Administration loan to a customer.

As a condition of the guarantee, Peroutka agreed in writing that the bank would ensure that the customer had put into her small business account at least $50,000 from other sources before the SBA loan was awarded.

A short time later, however, the bank loaned the customer the $50,000 necessary to inject into her business in order to meet the SBA guaranteed loan requirements. That $50,000 loan was made with Peroutka’s knowledge and consent, although the SBA was unaware of it, according to the US Attorney’s Office.

Subsequently, the customer wrote a personal check in the amount of $50,000 to her small business. Peroutka placed a copy of that check into the customer’s file to verify her compliance with SBA requirements.

When later questioned about the matter, Peroutka stated to a special agent from the FBI that he did not recall providing $50,000 in bank funds to the customer and that he did not know where the customer obtained the $50,000, even though the reverse was true, according to the US Attorney’s Office.

Peroutka could have faced a maximum potential penalty of five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted of making a false statement to an FBI agent.

Charges against Aanenson are more serious

Calls to Aanenson’s attorney, Joe Friedberg, were not returned as of press time.

Aanenson allegedly approved a $65,000 loan to Moldserv in September of 2003 for the purpose of providing the company with working capital.

Instead, the US Attorney’s office says that the loan was transferred to Plastic Solutions. Three days after the loan was granted, the money was moved to an account for Plastic Solutions, with $47,802 being used to cover a checking account that had been overdrawn for months. The remainder was used for unauthorized purposes, Bailey said.

No payments were ever made on the loan, and the bank wrote off the debt in October 2004 as uncollectable, she said.

The US attorney also alleges that in July 2004, Aanenson directed a bank employee to credit Plastic Solutions’ checking account with $92,669. At that time, the account was almost $150,000 overdrawn. Aanenson also directed the same person to credit Moldserv’s checking account with $10,242, which was the amount the account was overdrawn.

Aanenson supposedly offset these false transactions by having the bank’s prepaid expense account debited by $100,000 and the account for overdraft charges debited by $2,911.

As a result, the bank’s quarterly report to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, filed in October 2004, was inaccurate in that it failed to disclose a substantial loss.

If convicted of bank fraud and making a false entry in a bank report, Aanenson faces a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in federal prison and a $1 million fine on each of these charges.

This case is the result of an investigation by the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Office of Inspector General.

Assistant US Attorney Hank Shea is prosecuting the case.

Statement from the State Bank of Cokato

The State Bank of Cokato issued a statement about the news from the US Attorney’s Office by noting that the people involved have not been employed at the bank for more than a year and the bank has moved forward as a strong community bank.

“Due to confidentiality constraints, we cannot comment directly about the details within the US Attorney’s news release,” commented Acting President John Schwegel.

“The bank is doing very well, it’s profitable, making loans – and we remain a strong community bank dedicated to our community, and 100 percent owned by our employees,” Schwegel said.

“Due to the dedicated support from our customers and from our committed employee/owners, I am very pleased to say that the bank’s progress is remarkable – meeting or exceeding all the goals of the bank board and bank management,” he said.

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